Police blame ‘opportunists’ for looting and graffiti amidst legitimate protesters; 95 percent of the people arrested do not live in Santa Monica

By Matt Rodriguez 

A Black Lives Matter protester raises her sign high amid a peaceful protest in Santa Monica. Photo courtesy of Zee James.

What began as a peaceful protest soon turned into chaos as opportunists took to the streets and looted businesses all across downtown Santa Monica on Sunday.

At around 1 p.m., an estimated 150 protesters gathered at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard to condemn the murder of George Floyd and the countless other unarmed black people who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

As the demonstrators marched down Ocean Avenue approaching Colorado Avenue and the Santa Monica Pier, cars chauffeured looters to Santa Monica Place. The looters broke into stores stealing whatever they could before police arrived at around 2:30 p.m.

“We share in the grief and the outrage at the killing of George Floyd and far too many men and women of color who came before him,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day at a press conference the following day. “We need change in America, but let’s be clear, the events of looting and arson from last night are the work of opportunists hijacking a vital message and a movement.”

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Photos by Gunnar Kuepper

According to the city, 292 businesses reported damages, with 155 reporting significant damage. In addition to the damages to businesses, Santa Monica recorded 84 reports of graffiti. The Fire Department also responded to nine fires across the city. The National Guard deployed 130 soldiers to assist law enforcement.

The Santa Monica Police Department made 438 arrests on Sunday with the crimes ranging from looting, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and violation of curfew.

According to Santa Monica Police Chief Cynthia Renaud, 95% of the people arrested do not live in Santa Monica.

“What we can glean from intelligence online is that there are opportunists who are tracking where peaceful protests are occurring and they are then going into that city knowing that resources will be tied up ensuring First Amendment rights to free speech,” said Renaud.

The looters made their way from Santa Monica Place and moved further into downtown looting more businesses. Some of the businesses that were badly damaged were those in between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue, off of Fourth Street.

Looters broke into several businesses such as Patagonia and Jack’s Jewelers. They also broke into the second-hand designer store Wasteland, which boarded up its storefront with a mural that read “After the Plague Comes the Renaissance.” Looters defaced the mural with graffiti which now reads “After the Plague Comes the Riots.” Other buildings were tagged with some reading “No Justice No Peace” and down the road at the local Vons on Lincoln Boulevard, it read “Stop Killing My People” in red spray paint.

Later that day, a fire was set across the street at the Sake House on Santa Monica Boulevard right next to Jack’s Jewelers on Fourth Street.

Amidst the pillaging, peaceful protesters marched on as police dealt with the looters. Some protesters helped police mitigate the damage, stopping looters.

Several people attempted to break into the REI on Santa Monica Boulevard and Fourth Street before a woman holding a sign saying “End All Violence” stepped in front of their crowbars, hammers and skateboards pleading with them to stop.

The group eventually left after others stepped in to help as another protester held a sign saying “We Protest Not Loot.”

“We are here for the protests, but when we see people looting it defeats the cause,” said the woman who stepped in front of the looters to FOX 11.

“This is about George Floyd,” said the protester holding the “We Protest Not Loot” sign. “This is not about selfish gain. This is about all the suffering that we have been put through, people of color… The system doesn’t work. This is why this is happening, but we can’t take it out on other people. These local businesses, they had nothing to do with this. George Floyd would be upset.”

As the chaos subsided, business owners returned to their stores to assess the damages. Les Miller, owner of Optomeyes located across the street from Santa Monica Place, reflected on the damage to his business.

“It’s devastating, it really is,” said Miller as he stood behind the shattered windows of his storefront. “It kind of sets us back a little bit.”

On the following Monday hundreds of volunteers gathered right off the Santa Monica Pier, close to where the looting started, to assist the city workers to clean up the city.

“We are here today to clean up Santa Monica as one community,” said O’Day. “Piece by piece we will repair and we will rebuild. We are strong. We are resilient. We will get through this.”

The volunteers armed with their brooms, sponges and paintbrushes helped sweep up the broken glass and painted over the graffiti.

“It’s refreshing to see strangers coming to help,” said volunteer Michelle Hahn. “It’s just that moment of humanity that comes together in a moment of crisis.”

The Day After | Photos by Matt Rodriguez

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