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San Diego sheriff requests National Guard; 100 troops to deploy in La Mesa

National Guard troops stand watch June 3 outside La Mesa Police Department headquarters.
(Alex Riggins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has requested the help of the California National Guard to support police in La Mesa and deputies around the county amid continuing protests calling for racial justice and police reform, according to sheriff’s officials.

“San Diego County has requested the National Guard [to] assist with security in the region due to the recent civil unrest,” La Mesa city officials said in a statement Wednesday night. “A portion of them will be responding to La Mesa this evening. You may also see them throughout the county.”

La Mesa was the site of a peaceful protest Friday, and a second protest Saturday that began peacefully, but devolved to looting and vandalism after police responded to angry demonstrators with tear gas, pepper spray and beanbag rounds.

There have been no protests in La Mesa since Saturday, but city officials have implemented a curfew between 7 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. every day through the weekend.

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On Wednesday night, National Guard troops were stationed at entry points around the La Mesa Police Department headquarters, along University Avenue and just off Allison Avenue. Some of the entry points were blocked by National Guard trucks, others by temporary barriers.

Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Matzkiw confirmed 100 members of the California National Guard were being deployed to La Mesa, and 100 more would be deployed elsewhere across the county with sheriff’s deputies.

A California National Guard member stands outside the La Mesa Police Department on June 3.
(Alex Riggins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Matzkiw said they would be used as “force protection,” accompanying La Mesa police officers and sheriff’s deputies to help protect public buildings from vandalism.

In a tweet, sheriff’s officials said the National Guard “will work alongside law enforcement providing security to critical infrastructures (public buildings, courthouses, power grids, etc.) during the protests to prevent looting & arson.”

Protests have erupted across San Diego County since Friday amid nationwide anger and calls for racial justice and police reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died last week after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Wednesday marked the sixth day local residents have taken their grievances to the streets, mostly peacefully. The series of demonstrations began with the consecutive nights of protests in La Mesa last Friday and Saturday. A protest Sunday in downtown San Diego also resulted in some destruction and police firing tear gas at protesters.

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In response, several cities implemented curfews in an effort to deter similar actions. On Wednesday, La Mesa’s curfew remained in place as did one in El Cajon, between 7 p.m. Wednesday and 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

Since Monday, however, the protests across the county have been peaceful.

La Mesa City Councilman Bill Baber said he welcomed the National Guard “to keep our public buildings and businesses safe.”

He said city officials “called them on Saturday, trying to get them to send some folks down this week.”

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Baber said that the city has seen small but continuing issues all week.

“We didn’t know if the rioters and looters were coming back,” he said. “We started asking Saturday, and here they are.”

Riggins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. SDUT staff writer Teri Figueroa contributed to this report.


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