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Santa Monica Demonstration Turns Violent, Looters Ransack Stores
By Jorge Casuso
June 1, 2020 -- Protests over the killing of George Floyd turned violent in Santa Monica on Sunday, as looters ransacked stores, demonstrators faced off with police and fires were set in different parts of the city.
Bands of looters defying a 4 p.m. curfew tore through boarded facades hastily erected to protect Downtown stores already crippled by the coronavirus shutdown and made off with arms full of merchandise as, in some cases, police looked on.
The looters -- some wearing COVID-19 masks and armed with hammers and wire cutters -- stormed Patagonia and broke into Chase bank as they hit a series of stores on the fringes of the Promenade.
By 7 p.m. four structures and four cars had been set on fire, as City officials announced police would begin making arrests. By 10 p.m., City spokeswoman Constance Farrell told The Lookout there had been "hundreads of arrests." No injuries were reported.
"This has been a gut-wrenching day in Santa Monica," Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day said at a 10 p.m. press conference. "While people protested peacefully, organized bands of looters targeted our city.
"This is not like anything we have ever seen or experienced," O'Day said. "Safety and order are returning to our city."
The National Guard began rolling into the city of 93,000 shortly before 8 p.m., pulling into the Big Blue Bus depot near Downtown.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told KCAL-9 that most of the protesters drove in from other areas.
"They're taking Ubers and rental vehicles," Villanueva said. "They're from out of state, out of the County."
Carloads of protesters arrived after the 10-Freeway exits were closed by driving the wrong way and using the enter ramps, KABC reported.
The early afternoon protests were by and large peaceful, as demonstrators calling for justice in the police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday chanted and waved signs.
As the demonstrations spread, crossing freeway overpasses, Santa Monica police fanned out, joined by Sheriffs deputies and police from Los Angeles, Culver City, Ventura and Santa Barbara.
Live televised footage showed that what began as a peaceful protest soon became splintered and more violent, forcing police to stay on the move.
A mid-afternoon standoff on Ocean Avenue near the foot of the Pier led to tense skirmishes as protesters lobbed rocks and smoke bombs at police, who responded by firing rubber bullets at the ground from an armored vehicle.
Protesters set a small fire on the street and briefly barricaded themselves behind a row of plywood boards before being pushed back.
Looters took advantage of the protests to stage planned heists, emptying stores in front of television crews and fleeing in awaiting getaway cars as police did nothing to stop them.
Stores were targeted along Broadway and on 4th Street a block east of the Promenade, which was protected with police lines and remained by and large unscathed.
The implements and getaway cars used during the break-ins and robberies indicated the looting was planned.
"You're not here for any noble cause," Villanueva said when KCAL asked him to address the looters. "You're here for your own personal gain at the expense of the community."
At a 7 p.m. press conference, three hours after the curfew was imposed, O'Day announced police would make arrests. "The story of looting and crime," he said, "is now going to end.
"We are now getting to a point where we are going to provide safety in this community," O'Day said. "We are going to do that."
Police Chief Cythia Renaud announced during the press conference that those violating the curfew were being arrested and that the National Guard's imminent arrival would have a "dramatic impact."
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