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Newsom declares state of emergency in L.A., deploys National Guard

Gov. Gavin Newsom late Saturday declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles county and city and activated the National Guard to assist police after two days of violent demonstrations sparked by the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man whose neck was pinned down by a white police officer.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti requested that Newsom mobilize the Guard less than an hour after the mayor widened a mandatory curfew, first imposed on downtown L.A., to the entire city from 8 p.m. Saturday to 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Los Angeles Metro said it was suspending all transit during the curfew period.

The decision to call in the National Guard was criticized by City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents a portion of South L.A.

“It’s clear that our fear is real that additional law enforcement will only further violence against people of color,” Harris-Dawson said in a statement. “Anarchists are taking advantage of our pain with looting and violence — this is not Black Lives Matter or members of our community who have suffered from systematic racism and oppression — these are domestic terrorists.”

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The decision came Saturday as peaceful demonstrations in the Fairfax district deteriorated, with shops at the Grove, including Nordstrom and the Apple Store, vandalized and looted. A small police kiosk in the shopping center was set on fire.

When a protester smashed the front window of the nearby Whole Foods with a hammer, some screamed, “Don’t do that! Please!” while others cheered.

The protesters began to clash among themselves. Those urging peace created a barricade of shopping carts around the store’s entrance to protect it, but moments later, another group jumped the barricade and broke the store’s door down.

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More than three dozen officers stormed the scene from the Westside, firing rubber bullets and sending hundreds sprinting. “Stop running!” one man screamed, standing atop a car with a megaphone. “Stand as one! Say his name!”

As the night wore on, there were more reports of looting on Fairfax and Melrose avenues, where several stores were ransacked and a Starbucks coffee shop was set ablaze. Dozens of looters ran into an Adidas store on Melrose and Edinburgh avenues at 9:45 p.m., emerging with blue boxes of shoes. Empty shoe boxes and glass littered the sidewalk outside the store. Cars honked as the looting continued.

Two men stood across the street watching the scene unfold together.

“It’s horrible — they need any excuse just to take something,” said one of them, Mel, a 39-year-old Compton resident who would provide only his first name. Mel said he came to the area to witness history.

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“It’s going to be in the news,” he said. “It’s going to be like the Watts riots. I wasn’t really alive for it but I was alive for this one. I’ll tell my kids and family members what happened.”

By early Sunday, the chaos was replaced by an eerie quiet.

Around 1 a.m., a few stragglers remained in the Fairfax District, the epicenter of the prior day’s protests and looting. Fire crews doused storefronts that had smoldered for hours.

Metro buses, flanked by police motorcycle escorts, carried detained people who had zip-ties on their wrists. Broken glass glittered on the sidewalk and hung from window frames, including one building with cardboard signs reading: “Black Owned.”

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In Santa Ana, where protesters and police clashed, the streets were quiet by 2:30 a.m.

At the intersection of McFadden Avenue and Bristol Street, where many of Saturday’s skirmishes took place, the scent of melted plastic lingered in the air. Broken glass was scattered across the intersection.

One man drinking with friends outside a nearby house described the entire episode as “dumb.”

“Do you have to loot?” he said. “You’re just making the city look bad.”

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The man, who declined to provide his name, said he watched police officers fire tear gas at demonstrators, who threw rocks and other items at officers.

Workers at a Smart and Final on Edinger Avenue were cleaning up broken glass. A small cardboard sign lay close by, which read: “Make lynching a federal crime.”

Nearby, Julio De La Chica said he watched demonstrators break windows at the Smart and Final and an O’Reilly Auto Store, whose walls were scrawled with anti-police graffiti.

“I was stunned,” he said. “I’ve never really seen anything like that before.”

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Garcetti said the simultaneous protests and COVID-19 pandemic represented “the heaviest moment I’ve experienced as a resident of Los Angeles” since the riots in 1992.

“This was supposed to be a weekend of openings, and then we saw the closing of a life in Minneapolis,” Garcetti said, referring to the death there of Floyd at the hands of police.

Instead of focusing on recovery, Los Angeles had been forced to close all of its coronavirus testing sites as a safety precaution, he said. Health officials were worried about “super spreaders” being among the protesters, potentially impeding the city’s progress in beating back the virus.

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Garcetti said he welcomes peaceful protests to continue in future days, but “now is the time to go home. Come back [and] protest peacefully when there is peace.”

He said police will be empowered to make arrests if people violate the curfew.

Beverly Hills, Glendale, Pasadena and West Hollywood also announced an 8 p.m. curfew.

“I am asking everyone to stay home,” Beverly Hills Mayor Les Friedman said.

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In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew that began Sunday night and asked Newsom to place the National Guard on standby to assist.

The call for help from the state came after peaceful protests lasted in San Francisco’s Civic Center through Saturday afternoon. But as night fell, there were increased levels of violence, police cars were vandalized and police officers were assaulted, Police Chief Bill Scott said. Storefront windows have been smashed on the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, Market Street.

“We cannot, and we will not, tolerate that,” Scott said late Saturday.

Beverly Hills officials have urged residents to stay indoors in preparation for protests, and West Hollywood’s mayor said that city plans to issue a curfew for 8 p.m. through the 5:30 a.m. Beverly Hills is also ordering a curfew.

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On Saturday afternoon, police and protesters had a tense standoff near the Grove in L.A.'s Fairfax District, with police shooting rubber bullets and striking demonstrators with batons while several police cars were set on fire and other vehicles vandalized. Protesters also took over a Metro bus and climbed on its roof to videotape police.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority halted all bus and rail service until Sunday at 5:30 a.m. to “ensure the safety of both the public and L.A. Metro employees,” said the agency’s chief executive, Phil Washington.

Hundreds of protesters were marching to decry Floyd’s death when the standoff occurred at West 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue. Many in the group held their hands up, silently facing the officers. Loud bangs could be heard, prompting some in the crowd to run down 3rd Street and into nearby alleys. Two protesters said they witnessed officers shooting what looked to be rubber bullets and canisters.

The large crowd first gathered at Pan Pacific Park off Beverly Boulevard, where they chanted “de-fund police” and “prosecute killer cops” and waved signs at a rally organized by Black Lives Matter and social justice group BLD PWR. The rally’s speakers called for fewer public dollars for police departments and for schools and prisons to be overhauled.

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Areas of unrest in downtown L.A. and on the Westside.
(Paul Duginski / Los Angeles Times)

“We’re living in the middle of an uprising,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors told the group. “Let’s be clear: We are in an uprising for black life.”

Marsha Steinberg, 76, who described herself as a longtime activist, was among those who came out for the rally. “I was here for Rodney [King],” said Steinberg, who lives in the neighborhood. “Nothing has changed.”

“People have not had an outlet for justice,” Steinberg said, adding that new district attorneys need to be elected and cops prosecuted who are accused of misconduct.

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Isabel Alvarado waved a sign reading “Latinos for Black Lives Matter.” Alvarado, 21, lives in Santa Clarita and drove to the L.A. rally because she is “sick and tired of waking up every morning” to news about police killings. “I can’t compare myself to what they’re going through,” she said, of being black. “But I’m here to support them.”

By 2 p.m., thousands of marchers made their way from Pan Pacific Park and began marching west down 3rd Street toward Beverly Hills.

Police helicopters whirred overhead, while people standing on the sidewalks cheered on the marchers. Some marchers chanted, “No justice, no peace!” Early on, the crowd was peaceful, and there were no acts of violence or vandalism. Some bystanders even offered bottles of water to the marchers, and motorists honked their support.

But then the crowd and police engaged in a standoff, and matters quickly spiraled out of control.

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By threatening to deploy the military against fellow Americans, the president is resorting to the language of tyrants and despots.

By 4:30 p.m., the crowd appeared to be dispersing. Some protesters could be seen heading away from the mass of people gathered at Fairfax Avenue and 3rd Street.

With the crowd thinning, it was easier to spot the destruction of property in this popular commercial neighborhood.

About a dozen destroyed or defaced LAPD cruisers stood parked on 3rd Street, yards from where a loud crowd of protesters faced a row of police. The smell of charred rubber wafted through the area. The cruisers’ windows were smashed, mirrors ripped out and the vehicles’ bodies scrawled with writing: “F— pigs” and “Kill cops.”

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Protesters spray-painted “Cops and Klan go hand and hand” along the side of a Citibank at Fairfax. Across the street, “Eat the Rich” was scrawled on the Writers Guild of America building.

People climbed up on the roof of the Farmers Market’s Starbucks, while nearby protesters held signs that read, “Abolish Cops.”

A woman who gave her name as Tof came upon the protest after doing some shopping in the neighborhood. Looking down the street, she said peaceful protests hadn’t worked in the past. “There’s no wrong way to protest,” she said. “We would never do this if they weren’t killing us.”

Get live updates from Los Angeles Times journalists as they report on protests across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

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With the afternoon’s destruction, she hopes “they will listen.”

Around 6 p.m., police arrested about 20 protesters who were then loaded onto a sheriff’s bus. Dozens of protesters — many dressed in black and wearing masks — posed for photographs, each with a fist in the air, while standing atop a burned and graffiti-marked car by Edinburgh Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.

One demonstrator walked by carrying a sign that said, “Who do you call when a murderer wears a badge?” A helicopter circled overhead while police sirens wailed nearby.

About 6:15 p.m., a crowd suddenly dispersed as police shot rubber bullets at protesters near intersection of Beverly Boulevard and Hayworth Avenue. The protesters returned a few minutes later and stood in front of a barricade of police officers. Many held their hands in the air. “George Floyd!” they chanted.

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A 24-year-old protester who came from Northridge watched from a few feet away.

“This is how they’re trying to calm us down?” he said. “We’re just trying to prove a point.”

Shortly afterward, officers declared an unlawful assembly and the crowd scattered again. Glass littered the sidewalk from a broken storefront window.

At the Grove nearby, looters broke into the Nordstrom department store and the Apple Store and ran off with merchandise. Sheriff’s deputies, some armed with semi-automatic weapons, arrived to assist police on 3rd Street. An officer in a police helicopter overhead urged the crowd of several hundred protesters to disperse.

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A 26-year-old protester shook as police fired another round of rubber bullets at demonstrators gathering at nearby Edinburgh Avenue and Beverly Boulevard. She had been encouraged to attend the protest — her first ever — by her boyfriend but had already been hit in the back of the leg by a bullet.

“It’s like they don’t even care,” said Latanya Marie, who agreed to be identified by her middle name. “People are chanting. How are you going to hit people with rubber bullets?”

She said that she wasn’t confident the protests would effect a change, but that she felt better driving out to participate from the Valley than supporting only via social media.

“I really don’t think it’s going to do anything,” she said. “But at least I’m getting out here and letting my anger be known.”

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Travon Walton, a 25-year-old student from Long Beach, arrived in the Fairfax area in the afternoon to join the protests. He said that he saw many non-black protesters inciting the police from up close and said he worried that the black community would receive the blame.

“All the white people are in the front,” he said. “We’re going to be the ones that get the backlash.”

This was his first protest, and he planned to leave after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew.

“We thought we’d just come out here to have a peaceful protest, but as you can see, it’s not that at all,” he said.

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Speaking to a reporter at the Grove on Saturday evening, LAPD Chief Moore said he was troubled by how things had gotten out of control. He said he understood people’s anger and frustration but that the city needed to pull together.

“This is not the solution,” he said, standing next to the Nordstrom store that was looted. “We haven’t given up on L.A., and L.A. shouldn’t give up on itself. We can pull around this. ... Policing doesn’t fix these kind of societal problems. I need all of L.A. to step up right now and be part of the solution.”

Protesters in downtown clashed with police repeatedly, at times throwing rocks and other projectiles at police. Officers at times responded by firing projectiles toward protesters. Businesses were vandalized, and at one point a dumpster fire was started in the middle of a major thoroughfare.

Keena Rizzo, 35, of Los Angeles, said she and other protesters were exhausted by an unfair policing system and an unfair economic system that had left them out to dry amid the pandemic.

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“We feel like we don’t mean anything,” she said. “There’s not even a middle class anymore. It’s just us and the rich.”

In Silver Lake, some protesters made it onto the 101 Freeway before officers escorted them off. Traffic on the freeway was snarled.

A smaller group of sign-carrying protesters gathered in front of police headquarters downtown, where a larger number of LAPD officers stood by, behind metal barricades.

“We came to let our voices be heard,” said Monica Lopez of Alhambra. “Police brutality is not OK.”

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A business council member says the looting during protests in downtown L.A. Friday would disproportionately hurt the working class and people of color.

Lopez brought her 12-year-old daughter Jazlyn, who said she was protesting for the first time. She was waving a white sign that read, “Don’t Kill My Dad, I Need Him.”

The demonstrations came after Los Angeles police arrested more than 500 people after protests led to a night and morning of vandalism and looting on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

The LAPD spent much of Friday night and Saturday morning trying to clear the streets as people smashed windows, stole items from stores, clashed with police and set items, including at least two LAPD vehicles, on fire.

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A total of 533 people were arrested on suspicion of charges that included burglary, looting, violation of probation, battery on a police officer, attempted murder and failure to disperse, police said. All but 18 of those arrested were released on their own recognizance by Saturday afternoon.

Authorities said they had to make so many arrests because those on the street refused repeated orders to leave, including an unlawful-assembly order for all of downtown, issued at 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Six LAPD officers were hurt, some after being hit by debris. Their injuries were not life-threatening, police said. Numerous stores were vandalized and looted, but officials could not give an immediate count.

At one point early Saturday, officers opened fire after a man drove through an intersection where they were holding skirmish lines, police said. The suspect, Richard Dodson, 49, suffered a minor injury and was charged with attempted murder, according to investigators.

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Dodson sped through a police line at 6th Street and Broadway just before 2 a.m., narrowly missing officers standing at the intersection and prompting one to fire a nonlethal round at Dodson’s vehicle, police said.

Dodson then drove through a second skirmish line, and another officer fired rounds from his service weapon, according to investigators. Dodson continued driving down the street until his car was blocked in by other traffic and he was arrested, police said.

In Oakland, one Federal Protective Service officer was fatally shot and another critically wounded outside a U.S. courthouse Friday night in an incident that federal authorities described as an act of domestic terrorism. The officers were keeping watch over a protest there, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the shooting was believed to be directly related to the unrest.

Earlier in the night, demonstrators blocked the 880 Freeway. Protesters smashed windows, sprayed buildings with anti-police graffiti and were met with chemical spray from police.

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Six Oakland police officers were injured, as well as seven members of other agencies who responded to assist, Oakland police said Saturday. Twenty-two people were arrested, and 60 people suspected of looting were detained for further investigation, police said.

In Los Angeles, merchants tried to pick up the pieces Saturday afternoon after a wave of destruction.

Claudia Oliveira, a board member of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, showed up on Broadway with more than a dozen volunteers to sweep up broken glass and swab down walls.

A Brazilian immigrant, Oliveira grew up in Minneapolis. She said she understood the anger and the outrage that boiled over on Friday night. Floyd’s death at the hands of police in her hometown made her want to throw up, she said.

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“I’m a black Latina undocumented immigrant,” she said. “It hurts me. I feel distraught and angry and frustrated. We saw an innocent man’s life taken from him.”

But she said she was frustrated that the damage in downtown would disproportionately hurt the working class and people of color. Most stores that were vandalized or looted are mom-and-pop stores, “immigrant-owned, run by black and brown folks,” Oliveira said.

The chain stores that were damaged, including Walgreens and Fallas Paredes, provide jobs, sell affordable goods and serve as lifelines for poor and homeless residents of downtown, Oliveira said.

A Starbucks at 6th and Spring streets saw some of the worst damage, with windows smashed and damage to the inside of the store. The cafe is on the first floor of the Hotel Hayward, a single resident occupancy hotel for low-income residents, Oliveira said.

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“It’s not that I don’t understand the struggle or the anger,” she said. “I’m freaking furious. But who would want to hurt and steal from black- and brown-owned businesses?”

Inside Discount Electronics, owner Bill Nabati rubbed his face and fielded multiple calls from his security alarm company.

“They looted my store,” said Nabati, who has run the small storefront on Broadway since 1983. “After two months of the coronavirus, we don’t need this.”

Some electronics had been taken, windows broken and shelves smashed, Nabati said. The last time he saw this kind of damage was in 1992, he said. As then, Nabati said, he was frustrated that the police had not done more to protect his small business.

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“They knew it was going to happen, and they told me I needed to prepare,” Nabati said. “There’s only so much I can do. It’s out of my hands. If they want to come destroy my business, they can.”

Times staff writers Hailey Branson-Potts, Rong-Gong Lin II , Laura J. Nelson and Alex Wigglesworth contributed to this report.


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