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South Coast Plaza postpones reopening as protests, looting rock California

Customers wait in line for pickup outside Nordstrom at Costa Mesa's South Coast Plaza
Customers waiting in line receive instruction from an employee at a curbside pickup location outside Nordstrom at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza on May 15.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa has postponed its planned reopening following the significant protests, violent clashes between demonstrators and police and looting that have rocked Southern California in recent days.

The upscale mall had planned to throw open its doors for customers Monday following a lengthy coronavirus-related closure but, in an online message, officials said the reopening would be delayed to an unannounced date.

“We are saddened by the recent events in our country and care deeply for the safety and well-being of our entire community,” the message states.

A representative for South Coast Plaza declined to comment beyond the website message or to specify what events the statement was referencing.

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However, Costa Mesa officials said that a curfew would be in effect Monday night starting at 7 p.m. Earlier in the day, the police department had said it had become aware of a “flyer circulating on social media that mentions a planned protest at South Coast Drive and Bear Street” — where the shopping center is located.

“The CMPD is working closely with its law enforcement partners and continues to provide police services to the city while addressing the situation,” police officials wrote in a statement. “While CMPD supports the public’s right to peaceably assemble and demonstrate, it does not support vandalism, rioting and looting.”

Recent days have seen thousands of demonstrators take to Southern California’s streets to decry the death of George Floyd — an unarmed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck for several minutes.

The protests have turned violent at times, with clashes between police and participants and widespread looting and vandalism.

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The National Guard was deployed in L.A. during periods of unrest in 1965 and 1992, and after the Northridge earthquake in 1994. On Sunday, Humvees rolled through downtown after Mayor Eric Garcetti requested 1,000 troops.

Hundreds of protesters looted stores in Santa Monica’s upscale business district and at the Pike Outlets in Long Beach on Sunday, smashing the windows of businesses before making off with whatever they could carry.

The deteriorating situation, which mirrored similar scenes from Los Angeles the day before, prompted Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to announce a countywide curfew beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday and ending at 6 a.m. Monday. The National Guard also was dispatched to especially hard-hit cities.

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Other demonstrations held Sunday in downtown Los Angeles, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana were largely peaceful.

Unconfirmed rumors circulating on social media indicated that an unnamed group was organizing some kind of protest at South Coast Plaza on Monday night — leading some to speculate that looters could be targeting the center next.

The South Coast Plaza representative did not comment on whether the center is taking additional or special measures to protect against looting or vandalism.

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Costa Mesa previously instituted a local curfew overnight Sunday, with officials saying they had gotten wind of plans to potentially vandalize and loot businesses within the city.

“What began as a civil peaceful assembly to protest has been co-opted and turned into destruction, chaos and intent to commit criminal acts,” Mayor Katrina Foley said in a statement Sunday. “We’ve learned from multiple sources that people plan to loot in our city. There is a lot of misleading information on social media right now intended to create disruption, but we must still take the necessary precautions to keep our city and our residents safe.”

South Coast Plaza closed in mid-March after a store employee tested positive for COVID-19. California’s subsequent stay-at-home order meant to stem the spread of the disease kept storefronts dark for weeks.

The center launched a curbside pickup program last month.


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