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Looting, vandalism across downtown L.A. as protesters, police clash

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Protesters demonstrating against the killing of George Floyd clashed for hours with police on the streets of downtown Los Angeles, blocking the 110 Freeway, damaging cars and property and getting into a series of tense altercations with officers. Looting and vandalism were reported across the area early Saturday as police tried to push out the demonstrators, many of whom were arrested and hustled off in buses.

At least four LAPD officers were hurt, some after being hit by debris.

Fireworks were set off in the streets, the sparks hitting buildings. Smoke filled the air as some people broke into shops, making off with tennis shoes, clothing and electronic items such as television screens and speakers. Looted jewelry lay scattered on the sidewalk and in the road, with some people stopping to scoop some of it up and others distributing it to bystanders.

Buildings were spray-painted with profanity and anti-police statements as well as Floyd’s dying plea as he lay pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer: “I can’t breathe.”

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Along 6th Street, between Spring and Broadway, residents watched the action below from their lofts and apartments, sometimes egging demonstrators on as they drank beer and took video footage of the chaos. Some pleaded with demonstrators not to damage their cars parked on the street.

One local business owner, Pedro Mojarro, stood outside his burger eatery to protect it. Mojarro, 32, said he supported the demonstrators but was upset that they were targeting businesses like his.

“We’re with you — I’m not against you. If you need to protest, go do it in front of the police station. Be angry at them,” Mojarro said, adding: “I’m just a business owner trying to survive.”

The situation had deteriorated around midnight as several jewelry stores were broken into and looted along with a CVS drugstore. A nearby Whole Foods Market was damaged. One person threw a scooter into a plate-glass window at one business, while another person offered a reporter a handful of jewelry on the street.

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Police said there were numerous burglaries by “opportunists” not necessarily connected with the original protest that began Friday afternoon with a march on City Hall and Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.

“I think when we hit daylight we will see the destruction. We lost at least two police vehicles to fire,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Robert Arcos.

A Starbucks on Spring Street was vandalized, its windows smashed and painted with slogans such as “End Racism” and “Brown Power Unite.” Furniture from the store was thrown onto the street.

One business on 6th Street sported a signed that read “Black owned.” The windows of the salon next to it were broken.

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Some trash cans were set on fire, and protesters set some debris on fire on at least one street. A video showed an LAPD vehicle burning on Figueroa Street.

Police had declared an unlawful assembly about 9:30 p.m. Friday for a large swath of downtown L.A. from the 10 Freeway to the 101, and the 110 Freeway to Alameda Street.

“This is being made following repeated acts of violence and property damage. Residents should stay inside. Businesses should close. Those on the street are to leave the area,” the LAPD said on Twitter.

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The demonstration began about 4 p.m. Friday when marchers moved through downtown Los Angeles and into the Staples Center area, chanting, “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace.” Then some members of the group went onto an onramp to the 110 Freeway and temporarily blocked traffic, waving signs and chanting at stopped motorists.

The protest started peacefully. But the situation grew more tense and violent as night fell, and worsened as the hours went on.

“L.A. failed tonight,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore told reporters at around 11 p.m.

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Others were also left dismayed. Bruce Gantt, 64, watched as a row of police cruisers with their red and blue lights and sirens on sped along Temple Street. Seconds later, there were loud bangs as officers fired non-lethal ammunition at protesters a street over.

“This is all depressing,” he said. “When will they learn.”

Ana Pepe, 68, who lives between Broadway and Spring, came out about midnight and walked her dogs because they had been indoors all day. Looking at broken windows and graffiti, Pepe said she didn’t agree with what had occurred in her neighborhood.

“Half of these people don’t even live here. They’re just here to destroy things,” she said. “This doesn’t help their cause.”

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TV footage showed police officers clashing with some protesters suspected of vandalizing a patrol car. Video also showed some protesters throwing debris and a trash can during tussles with officers.

Police repeatedly fired less-than-lethal weapons into the ground after some officers got into a struggle with demonstrators.

The marchers had gone past LAPD headquarters earlier Friday before converging on the steps of City Hall. Police then began making arrests at City Hall while pushing other demonstrators down Spring Street. At times, protesters threw objects at officers.

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Protesters took to the streets in Los Angeles for the third night in a row following the killing of George Floyd.

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Mayor Eric Garcetti urged peaceful protest.

“We respect every Angeleno’s right to protest, but violence and vandalism hurts all,” he said on Twitter on Friday evening. “Let’s remember why we march, protect each other, and bring a peaceful end to a painful night.”

The killing of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck earlier this week, has sparked protests across the country. On Wednesday night, demonstrators briefly shut down the 101 Freeway in the L.A. civic center.

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Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore tweeted, “In response to recent demonstrations, we stand with our community and rebuke any instance of police brutality. No one despises a bad cop more than a good cop.”

He added: “However, as we continue to facilitate spontaneous and planned protests, violence or property damage has no place here in L.A.”

In Northern California, protesters in San Jose temporarily shut down the 101 Freeway. Another group shut down the 880 Freeway in Oakland. Marchers also took to the streets in San Francisco.

Hundreds of demonstrators began marching at San Jose City Hall on Friday before running onto the 101 Freeway at Santa Clara Street. They briefly blocked freeway traffic before returning to downtown San Jose.

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“One of our officers was injured and transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries,” San Jose Police Officer Gina Tepoorten said in an emailed statement. “We do not have all the details at this time.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said he understood the anger but urged peaceful protests.

“Anger and peaceful protest will always be appropriate responses to injustice; violence will never be,” Liccardo tweeted on Friday afternoon. “San Jose is united in outrage over the atrocious crime committed in Minneapolis and in sadness over George Floyd’s horrible death.”

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Elsewhere in Southern California, nine people were arrested Thursday night at a protest in Fontana.

That event, which started in the 8400 block of Sierra Avenue about 6 p.m., initially involved about 50 demonstrators but grew to include about 100, police said in a news release.

Protesters blocked traffic and threw rocks at the windows of businesses and passing vehicles, according to investigators. Some windows at Fontana City Hall were damaged, police said.

Police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and ordered the demonstrators to disperse about 9 p.m. Some of the protesters refused and threw rocks at officers, prompting them to ask other agencies for help, police said.

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It took officers more than an hour to break up the crowd, and nine people were arrested on suspicion of various offenses, police said. There was no immediate word on what charges they might face.

Protesters are escorted off the northbound 110 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles on Friday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In Minneapolis, protesters lobbed bottles, trampled a perimeter fence, broke windows and overran a police station. Crowds continued to ransack the station, burn cars and fire guns into the air early Friday.

Floyd’s deadly encounter with police began Monday night after he was accused of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store.

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Cellphone video of Floyd’s arrest outside the business shows Officer Derek Chauvin driving his knee into the 46-year-old’s neck as Floyd pleads that he can’t breathe. After several minutes, Floyd appears to lose consciousness, and a bystander can be heard yelling that Floyd’s nose is bleeding. Even as paramedics arrive to check Floyd’s pulse, Chauvin’s knee remains positioned on the man’s neck.

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.

The killing has been condemned by leaders of some of the largest police departments in the U.S.

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