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Melrose Avenue shop manager grabs nail gun as looters try to break in

Looters and vandals ransack Spokes 'N Stuff at Melrose Avenue and Ogden Drive on Saturday.
Looters and vandals ransack Spokes ‘N Stuff at Melrose Avenue and Ogden Drive on Saturday. Several businesses on the trendy row of designer and clothing stores were looted.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Rodney Beckwith, who goes by his artist name Flewnt, spent the night inside Resist 323, the store he manages on Melrose Avenue.

A garage door security gate was pulled down in front to protect the shop, which sells custom clothing and art. But one of the windows at the top of the store was still smashed.

Flewnt was inside when he heard people trying to break in through the back door Saturday night. He shoved a table saw against the security door to block their access.

“All I could do was try to get to the rooftop,” he said. “My survival mode: Get high and get out the door. I’m not going to sit down there. They’re breaking through a door, they’re not knocking.

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“I know they’re Black Lives Matter. I’m black, but ... they’re doing something crazy,” Flewnt said. “I can’t say I’m black, everything is good, I’m on their side. I feel them, I’m with them, but at the same time, I’m protecting a business.”

No one managed to breach the security door and get inside, but Flewnt kept a nail gun and an ax with him. He climbed atop a ladder and kept watch.

“It’s a black dude store. Leave it alone,” protesters said when they spotted him perched above.

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“I couldn’t get any sleep until daybreak,” Flewnt said. “It was a wild night. Hopefully tonight will be a little calmer.”

A few storefronts down, Happy Ice was papered with fliers showing a photo of the owner below the words “Black Owned.”

Melrose Avenue along with Fairfax Avenue — two of Los Angeles’ hippest streets, with rows of designer, clothing and streetwear shops — were targets of looters after protesters and police clashed outside the nearby Farmers Market area.

Numerous businesses were looted, and one building on Melrose Avenue was burned.

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Mariana Solaris, 20, of San Bernardino was walking along Melrose when police fired foam pellets.

“I came out peacefully to show my support, and the police are aiming right at me. To feel and experience it for myself — to have to run — I’m still shivering.

“I saw this on the news earlier tonight, and I thought, ‘No way is it really like that out there with the police.’ So I came out to see. And, yeah, it’s really like that.”

National Guard troops deployed onto the streets of downtown Los Angeles after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency.

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Eli Ventov has had his store, Reloaded L.A., along Melrose for nearly 12 years. The shop had just reopened Wednesday after being closed for months because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The store typically brought in $30,000 a month but had lost nearly $100,000 during the closure, Ventov said. Business had been brisk for the past few days.

On Saturday, as the protests began to grow, store workers rushed to Home Depot and bought painters paper to cover the windows so no one would break in.

No one did, but in the same building, looters broke into a Dr. Martens store. Around 7 p.m., someone threw a gas-filled bottle inside the shoe store, Ventov said.

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“It went from this store, to this store, to this store,” he said of the resulting fire, gesturing to the Tony-K shop and then to his own store.

Ventov stood across the street and watched his business burn.

“You see all your life running across your face,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”

“He stayed the whole time. We saw him on the news across the street watching his building burn down,” said Ramon Pazos, who works at the store. “There’s nothing we could do but watch.”

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On Sunday morning, Ventov stood outside the blackened store, where the roof appeared on the verge of collapse and the sky was visible through burned patches. He grew teary-eyed as a friend embraced him and told him it would be OK.

Passersby stopped and surveyed the damage and offered to help clean up.

“It’s not stable. The roof might collapse,” Pazos said, thanking those who stopped.

“What helped me was to think of the bigger picture,” he said. “If I think of why me, or why us, that can drive anybody crazy. I thought, you know what, if this is what’s going to happen, then this is what’s going to happen.”

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Times staff writer Emily Baumgaertner contributed to this report.


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