More looting and arrests amid peaceful protests in L.A.

People steal items from a watch and jewelry store on Monday in Van Nuys. <span class="copyright">(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)</span>
People steal items from a watch and jewelry store on Monday in Van Nuys. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A day of largely peaceful protests Monday over police brutality and the death of George Floyd ended with another series of looting incidents focused mostly in Van Nuys and Hollywood.

Demonstrations big and small occurred around California as the movement ignited by Floyd’s death show no signs of slowing.

But police continued to deal with people who appeared to use the protests as an opportunity to break into stores and steal merchandise.

But unlike on Friday and Saturday nights, the Los Angeles Police Department moved rapidly on various scenes and it appeared dozens were arrested.

Along Van Nuys Boulevard, numerous stores were hit and at least one fire was set.

Eva Bandikian, the manager at Kovac’s Care Pharmacy, said looters broke the lock on the door and stole “everything,” including money, the cash register and medicine.

Bandikian watched a feed from the store’s surveillance camera on her phone as about 10 young people stormed in.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with us,” she said. “They’re angry with the police and with the government.”

It was becoming clearer that the protests and the looting were being carried out separately. Some protesters actually blocked people trying to break into a store on Sunset Boulevard.

Less than an hour earlier, there was a moment of unity between demonstrators and police.

LAPD Cmdr. Cory Palka took a megaphone from demonstrators, urging them to protest in peace, abide by the county’s 6 p.m. curfew and leave nearby businesses untouched.

“If I take a knee with you guys, will you give me your verbal acknowledgement that this is a peaceful matter?” Palka yelled. The crowd screamed in approval. Someone yelled: “Lead by example!”

Palka knelt on Sunset Boulevard. After resting his left elbow on his folded knee, he moved to stand up. “We stand together,” he told the crowd. They all stood.

Protester Nathaniel Johnson, 30, of Hollywood, said the Police Department’s commitment to kneeling with demonstrators would have to be borne out with change. He wondered: “They took a knee now, but are they kneeling on us later?”

Sean Welch, who attended the West Hollywood protest, had scrawled “dying breed” on his white T-shirt with black and red Sharpie. As a black man in America, he said, that’s what he was.

“Cops have been killing us for years,” Welch said. “What makes them believe it’s OK?”

Behind him, a crew of men worked to board up the exterior and doors of a CB2 furniture store. They had been busy over the weekend, boarding up parts of the Beverly Center, a Trader Joe’s and a MedMen marijuana dispensary.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Monday that 700 people had been arrested Sunday during mass protests. About 10% of those arrests were connected to burglary or looting, he said. Across Southern California, more than 1,200 arrests had been made, a number that would surely rise significantly by Tuesday morning.

“We didn’t have protests last night — we had criminal acts,” Moore said during a news conference with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We didn’t have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd — we had people capitalizing. His death is on their hands as much as it is those officers.”

Moore apologized minutes later, saying he “misspoke when I said his blood is on their hands” and that he regretted “that characterization.”

“But I don’t regret, nor will I apologize, to those who are out there today committing violence, destroying lives and livelihoods and creating this destruction,” Moore said. “His memory deserves reform. His memory deserves a better Los Angeles, a better United States and a better world.”

California’s new policy that eliminates bail for most misdemeanor arrests — an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 in jails — does not apply to looters, L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said. She urged victims to preserve video clips of crimes.

“If you are a victim of a crime, if your business was in fact looted, vandalized, please do not erase any videotapes,” she said. “We need that. In court, we’ll be able to use that … to get justice for you.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia blamed looting and nearly 100 small fires in his city on organized criminals unaffiliated with peaceful protests.

“It’s pretty clear given the type of activity and how organized the activity was, there is a strategy going city to city and doing this criminal work,” Garcia said. The damage to small-business owners, he said, was unacceptable.

Gov. Gavin Newsom implored Californians to show empathy to one another in his first news conference since before he deployed the California National Guard to Los Angeles early Sunday, marking the third time in more than half a century that troops have responded to unrest in the city over violence against a black person in police custody.

“You’ve lost patience. So have I. You are right to feel wronged. You are right to feel the way you are feeling,” Newsom said to protesters, adding: “Society has a responsibility to you to be better, and to do better.”

Times staff writers Matt Ormseth, Laura J. Nelson, Gustavo Arrellano, Seema Mehta, Taryn Luna, Luke Money and Anita Chabria contributed to this report.

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