Curfews lifted throughout L.A. and Southern California as peaceful demonstrations continue
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
As protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd continue across Southern California, Los Angeles County has revoked a nighttime curfew.
Officials say that, although they do not plan to issue a countywide curfew Thursday night, cities within the county have the authority to set their own restrictions. The county’s cancellation of its order comes amid growing pressure to lift curfews that were imposed over the weekend and have continued for days in the region.
Before the announcement of the order’s cancellation, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva said his agency would not enforce a curfew.
“Based upon current situational awareness and the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer enforce a curfew,” Villanueva wrote in a statement. “Other jurisdictions are free to make their own decisions.”
The city of Los Angeles also will not have a curfew Thursday night — “We remain strongly committed to protecting the right of Angelenos to make their voices heard and ensuring the safety of our community,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said — and neither will the city of San Bernardino, officials there announced.
The decisions came a day after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Los Angeles city and county and the city of San Bernardino to end the curfews.
“We hope that other cities and counties in Southern California and around the country will also allow protesters and others to exercise their constitutional rights free from interference in this important moment,” Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the ACLU SoCal, said in a statement.
“There was no curfew on the murder of George Floyd, no arrests until we decried his merciless death, no statements of support until people flooded the streets around the world demanding justice,” added Melina Abdullah, co-founder of BLM-LA. “We have the right to march, we have the right to speak out, and not just on the government’s timetable.”
Garcetti also announced that all COVID-19 testing sites in L.A. County would reopen Friday.
L.A. County closed several testing sites or limited their hours amid protests, prompting concern that the move could could abet a second wave of coronavirus cases. Garcetti says all sites in the city will reopen Friday.
Police reported few problems Wednesday night after dealing with scattered looting and vandalism Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Officials pushed back curfews later into the evening Wednesday, but many called for them to be lifted completely, saying they unnecessarily restricted the public’s right to protest.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said that while the curfews may have been warranted on Sunday and Monday nights, “now it seems like they are being used to arrest peaceful protesters. I don’t think they are needed anymore.”
On Thursday, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore — who has been embroiled in a firestorm of controversy over comments he made and quickly retracted about looters — knelt with a group of protesters outside department headquarters.
The gesture represented an attempt to find common ground and to demystify law enforcement’s reputation as stoic authority figures, he said afterward.
Among the topics of conversation initiated by the protesters, according to Moore: what was going to change at the LAPD and how the chief felt about the $100 million to $150 million in potential budget cuts announced Wednesday.
“We see the hurt. We know and recognize the pain, the anguish,” he said. “We’re disgusted, and we share so many of the same emotions with regard to this latest episode that George Floyd represents, and with regard to issues of black people and all communities of color and their standing in America and the inequities that exist today and the history that has made that existence seem forever.”
Los Angeles officials said they will look to cut up to $150 million from the police budget as part of a wider effort to reinvest more dollars into the local black community.
In Beverly Hills, the city initially set a curfew for Thursday night but had walked it back by afternoon.
“The protests in our city have remained peaceful over the last several days,” Mayor Lester Friedman said. “We thank our residents and business community for their patience and cooperation as we work to keep our community safe.”
Santa Clarita did likewise, announcing shortly before 4 p.m. that a curfew originally set for 6 p.m. had been rescinded.
City officials said the decision was made “in light of the peaceful protests we have seen today in our city, and in consultation with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”
Although authorities said demonstrations in the city were peaceful, there was a scare shortly after 2 p.m. when sheriff’s officials said they were trying to keep demonstrators away from a Shell gas station at Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway after a “suspicious unattended device” was found. The bomb squad was called to the scene as a precaution.
Officials later said the device “did not contain any incendiaries” but “was definitively designed to cause harm to others when tossed into [a] crowd.” They did not elaborate or immediately respond to a request for more details.
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.
Curfew restrictions have not applied to first responders, law enforcement, people traveling to and from work or unsheltered individuals.
The curfews have allowed law enforcement to make mass arrests over the last few days, mostly of protesters who have chosen not to leave when ordered to by police. Thousands of people have been arrested in the L.A. region since Saturday.
On Thursday morning, several hundred protesters, many holding signs reading “Black lives matter” marched through the streets of Santa Monica. Officers on motorcycles rode ahead of the group as the crowd chanted: “Hands up. Don’t shoot.”
A crowd of several dozen people gathered outside the North Hollywood police station about 9 a.m. to voice concern over systemic racism. Provvidenza Catalano, 29, stood by a banner that carried the words, “End white silence.”
She said it was important to her to acknowledge her privilege as a white person. Over the last week, she’s reached out to friends and others to encourage them to engage in the Floyd protests.
“I see my liberation entwined with black people’s liberation,” she said.
In Hollywood, protesters left candles at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in honor of Floyd, whose memorial was underway in Minneapolis.
In downtown Los Angeles, dozens of protesters gathered on the steps of City Hall, holding signs that read, “Don’t shoot!” and “Civil rights are colorblind.” A small band of musicians played soulful music while buses passing by honked in support.
Michael Gonzales, a 24-year-old delivery driver, was among the crowd, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words, “Destroy white supremacy.”
Before arriving in L.A. from Covina, Gonzales had engaged in a conversation over text message with a friend who had expressed some doubt about the protests. The person had felt excluded by the protests’ focus on the lives of black people, Gonzales said.
“I said, ‘This is their fight, right now,’” Gonzales recalled. “It’s their fight, but it’s for everybody. Police brutality happens to Latinos, Asians too, but right now, it’s about black lives.”
Shortly after noon, the protesters had moved to Grand Park, in front of the courthouse and across the street from City Hall. An organizer stood on a bench and invited everyone to sit in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.
More than 100 protesters knelt on the grass while holding a fist in the air. Once they rose, they bowed their heads in prayer.
“Heavenly father, thank you for allowing us to gather peacefully in solidarity for change,” an organizer said to the crowd. “I pray for everyone that’s here — that they are covered in peace, that they are covered in activism for witnessing injustice.”
Protesters also gathered in Burbank. Video from the area showed a crowd of hundreds kneeling in front of the city’s Police Department and chanting, “No Justice, No Peace.”
Social media posts also showed crowds of demonstrators in Long Beach, at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley and at UCLA.
The Long Beach Police Department also unveiled a new online portal Thursday so residents can submit video and photo evidence of looting and other criminal activity — such as what the city experienced during a protest Sunday.
“We will not ignore the actions of criminal opportunists that have incited violence and caused damage in our community,” Police Chief Robert Luna said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the region’s largest demonstration took place at the Civic Center, where thousands protesting Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey for her handling of local police killings barely broke their stride around 6:30 p.m. as the ground began to roll and sway from a magnitude-5.5 earthquake centered 120 miles from downtown L.A.
“The D.A. should be held accountable for her lack of leadership and care for the people that we lost,” said protester Al Calderon, 26. “It’s unsettling to hear these families’ stories.”
Recent protests in Los Angeles have served up a steady stream of troubling videos of police aggression and violence.
On Wednesday, 61 people were charged with looting and other crimes in connection with the break-ins, fires and thefts across L.A. County. About 2,500 people were arrested from Friday through Tuesday morning during the largely peaceful protests.
“I support the peaceful organized protests that already have brought needed attention to racial inequality throughout our society, including in the criminal justice system,” Lacey said in a statement. “I also have a constitutional and ethical duty to protect the public and prosecute people who loot and vandalize our community.”
A series of peaceful protests over the police killing of Floyd also rolled through Newport Beach on Wednesday.
Though the demonstrations were calm, a television camera captured a scary scene on Balboa Boulevard when a vehicle zipped through a crowd of demonstrators — eventually colliding with a bicyclist. No one was injured.
The driver, identified by police as Don Wallace, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Newport Beach police spokeswoman Heather Rangel said.
Authorities were also called when a man brandished a gun during an argument with a protester. With help from local citizens and media, police arrested Travis Patrick White, 48, of Newport Beach on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats, according to a news release.
On the Eastside and in Orange County, Latino longtimers stand guard over shops and their neighborhoods to fend off potential looters and vandals during the civil unrest.
For Gale Oliver Jr., a pastor at the Greater Light Family Church in Santa Ana, a protest against racism and police brutality in one of Orange County’s wealthiest enclaves was a sign of the times.
“It’s a blessing that this is going on in Newport Beach,” said Oliver, who is black. “I mean, this is going on in Newport Beach? I guess America is finally listening.”
Times staff writers Colleen Shalby, Matthew Ormseth, Matt Hamilton, Sonja Sharp, Richard Winton, Andrew J. Campa, Benjamin Oreskes and Cindy Chang contributed to this report.
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