After a long night of violent protest, arson and looting, residents of La Mesa woke up Sunday to widespread damage in the city’s downtown area.
The La Mesa Springs Vons market was looted and set ablaze. Nearby businesses were burgled as well, their windows smashed in a long night of vandalism throughout the city’s commercial areas.
Two banks — a Chase branch and a Union Bank branch — were burned on Spring Street. A nearby Goodwill store was broken into. The Sprouts further south was looted, but police kept it from burning.
The Walmart and Target stores in Grossmont Center were also was looted.
City officials had ordered a curfew, but it was widely ignored. A 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew is in effect again for Sunday night.
A videographer who was at the scene said protesters told him they were not local, but from Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and had traveled to La Mesa for the protest.
At a news conference on Sunday, Rev. Shane Harris, president of People’s Alliance for Justice, decried the violence .
“The people rioting and burning buildings down and looting last night in San Diego County’s La Mesa community are not the peaceful protesters fighting for justice. They are taking advantage of this moment and using George Floyd’s death as an opportunity to steal, loot, and riot,” said Harris.
A cleanup of downtown, organized by the Public Square Coffee House at 8278 La Mesa Blvd., began at about 9 a.m. Sunday with hundreds of La Mesa residents arriving with brooms and paint, owner Aaron Henderson said.
“They cleaned up in about an hour,” Henderson said. “It was overwhelming to see this community come together.”
All the graffiti was cleaned up and store windows were boarded up, Henderson said.
On Saturday, a crowd took over the La Mesa Police Department parking lot at 2:30 p.m. to protest the Wednesday detainment of a man at the Grossmont Transit Center.
The man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer.
The encounter was videotaped and appeared on social media.
The protest was one of dozens across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer. The National Guard was called in several areas and curfews were implemented, including in Los Angeles. La Mesa officials also called for a curfew.
In a video posted to Twitter, La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis said the “entire City Council is very upset and disheartened.”
“We are utilizing all available resources and have reached out to the state for all additional aid to assist us in this emergency,” said Arapostathis, who was accompanied by his council colleagues. “We are committed to the safety and well-being of all of our citizens.”
Updated at 12:15 p.m., Sunday, Mary 31, 2020
— From Staff and Wire Reports