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A night of vandalism, looting and despair in downtown L.A.: ‘This is all depressing’

In the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ loft district, which before the coronavirus bustled with restaurants and other shops, the scene was chaotic and surreal at midnight.

Hours after what began as a peaceful protest of the killing of George Floyd began in downtown, the situation took a dark turn. Los Angeles police repeatedly clashed with protesters as they tried to push them south from City Hall.

Then, some people in the crowd began vandalizing buildings and looting some businesses. One man threw a scooter into a plate-glass window of a business.

Some jewelry stores were looted, and one person handed a handful of jewels to a reporter on the street. Jewelry display cases lay nearby.

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A Starbucks on Spring Street was thrashed, its windows broken, merchandise taken and furniture tossed onto the street.

Nearby, a CVS pharmacy was broken into and a stream of people went inside, returning to the street with items.

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Many storefronts as well as police cars were marked up with graffiti. Slogans included, “End Racism,” “Brown Power Unite” and “Keep Social Distancing Rioting,” as well as many attacks on police. There were screams of “Anarchy.”

Most businesses were empty. But a few owners rushed to their shops in hopes of protecting them from looting, including Pedro Mojarro, 32, who came from his home in South Gate late Friday to stand outside his burger restaurant and plead with protesters not to damage it.

“We’re with you — I’m not against you,” he said. “If you need to protest, go do it in front of the police station. Be angry at them.”

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Mojarro was still outside D-town Burger Bros Los Angeles, near 6th and Spring streets, with one of his employees at 2 a.m. Saturday, the two of them taking video as protesters ran up and down the street, smashing things.

“I’m just a business owner trying to survive,” he said.

For those driving through downtown, the chaos meant getting trapped.

Among the drivers who found himself between demonstrators and police was Billy Sweezer, 31, of Los Angeles. He said he was on his way to meet a date when he found himself in the middle of the chaos. He was angry at both sides.

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“This is retarded,” he yelled before screaming at police officers who were moving on the crowd.

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.”

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Others didn’t know when it would end. Even after police swept through, people remained on the street. Some set off firecrackers. Cars did doughnuts at intersections.

Ana Pepe, 68, who lives between Broadway and Spring, came out around 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 occurred in her neighborhood.

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“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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