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‘It is heartening’ Long Beach overwhelmed by volunteers helping clean up after looting

People wearing masks flocked to Long Beach’s Harvey Milk Promenade Park on Monday with brooms, buckets and dustpans in hand, to clean up after looting in downtown Long Beach during an otherwise peaceful protest against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

More than a hundred volunteers gathered beneath a Milk mural with the quote, “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard. Hope will never be silent.”

“Everybody feel good? Let’s get out there!” said Broc Coward, COO of Downtown Long Beach Alliance. Volunteers cheered and dispersed to nearby parking garages, storefronts and sidewalks. Downtown Long Beach Alliance, a group representing property owners and businesses downtown, manned a table surrounded by cases of water and paint cans.

Long Beach public works crews handed out brooms, rakes, gloves, buckets and masks. Two workers blasted a graffitied wall. Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of Downtown Long Beach Alliance, said he didn’t sleep last night. After leaving downtown at about 2 a.m., he stayed up messaging business owners and “helping people commiserate.”

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He returned at 5:30 a.m., to join at least 20 people who had already gathered to clean up. “This is what Long Beach is all about. This is really the spirit and the heart of our community,” Kojian said. “While it was tough to see and tough to understand the destruction, this is our first step into recovery and I think it’s doing a good thing for a lot of people. It is heartening. It’s also therapeutic for a lot of people.”

Joaquin and Jennifer Perez brought their two children to participate in the downtown Long Beach protest Sunday because they wanted to show the children that they can have a voice in the face of injustice, Jennifer Perez said. Her family returned Monday morning to help with the clean-up efforts.

“I want them to know that the flip side is they have to come out and help when the bad happens too,” Jennifer Perez said. “Community’s important.”

But by noon, most stores there had already been cleaned up, too.

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“We’ve had an overwhelming number of volunteers,” said one organizer.

Many Long Beach businesses had just removed wooden boards, weathered from weeks of coronavirus quarantine, to reopen. On Monday morning, new wood was erected in its place, with some some boards containing graffiti such as, “Black lives matter” or “ACAB,” for “all cops are bastards.”

Others were plastered with signs from the business owners. “Minority family owned” read a sign on door of The Social List, a bar and restaurant. “We stand with you! No justice, no peace!” read another sign posted above a haphazardly nailed wooden board on the front door of Lil Devils children’s clothing store.


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