Los Angeles Police Officers Attacked, Businesses Looted in Downtown Demonstrations

A Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer's cap rests on the hood of a patrol vehicle in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 4, 2018. Picture taken March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
A Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer's cap rests on the hood of a patrol vehicle in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 4, 2018.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Police worked Saturday morning to disperse crowds in downtown Los Angeles as multiple businesses were looted following demonstrations against police brutality following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Monday .

The Target store at Seventh and Figueroa streets, a Rite Aid store at 7th and Hope streets, along with the 6th Street Market and the Starbucks on Sixth Street between Broadway and Main Street and jewelry stores near Sixth Street and Broadway were among the businesses looted just before midnight Friday.

A trash can was set on fire near Olympic Boulevard and Hill Street and quickly extinguished by officers. Three fires were set near the intersection of Hill and Seventh streets, one in the intersection, another south of the intersection on Hill Street and a third on a sidewalk near a building.

As Los Angeles firefighters arrived to extinguish the flames, someone in the crowd grabbed a department fire hose and tossed it into the fire burning in the intersection.

At least one Los Angeles Police Department cruiser was tagged with graffiti.

Police set up skirmish lines throughout the downtown area and, in at least one instance, fired non-lethal ammunition as they pushed a crowd out of the area, some in the crowd stopping to hide behind vehicles to throw objects at officers.

Arrests were reported. A person answering the phone at the Metropolitan Detention Center could not give an exact number of arrests, but stated it was a “busload.”

The looting came about four hours after several people were detained shortly before 7 p.m. near Fifth and Olive streets for allegedly throwing objects at officers and damaging police cars that were parked near the intersection, according to broadcast reports from the scene.

A protestor was seen on video spraying a fire extinguisher at officers, then running through the crowd spraying fire retardant.

“I’m sorry that L.A. failed tonight,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore told reporters Friday night. “Our ability to have a demonstration, express our views, our anger, our disgust unfortunately turned into an unruly situation with officers being injured, property damage occurring.”

An officer was put in a chokehold and kicked by some protesters in the Pershing Square area, according to broadcast reports from the scene. It was not clear if this was the same officer who was sent to a hospital with injuries from a confrontation with demonstrators.

Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Gisselle Espinoza told reporters it was disappointing to see protestors attack the officer.

“This was not what we wanted,” Espinoza said. “We wanted it to be peaceful. We want people to exercise their First Amendment right to assemble, for speech and we wanted this to be peaceful. We want peoples’ voices heard and that’s not what’s happening.”

No arrests have been made in connection with the attack on the officer, Espinoza said.

At least two other officers were injured, including one who was struck in the face by a flying object, according to KNBC4.

Shortly before 7:30 p.m., a group of about 100 blocked traffic on the Harbor (110) Freeway, near the James M. Wood Boulevard exit. They were cleared from the freeway, but re-entered near Fifth Street at 8:20 p.m.

KNX Newsradio reporter Pete Demetriou was attacked during the protests, he said on Twitter. About five people punched him before others came to his aid, and a woman grabbed his microphone and yelled obscenities into it, but he was able to push her away.

Photos posted by Demetriou showed items confiscated by officers, including brass knuckles, knives, bottles of urine, spray paint cans and a gun that fires pepper balls.

A photo also circulated on Twitter of an KABC7 van tagged with illegible graffiti.

Demonstrators initially gathered at 5 p.m. outside City Hall and marched south on Spring Street, then north on Figueroa Street.

The protest was declared an unlawful assembly shortly before 9:30 p.m. due to “repeated acts of violence and property damage,” according to the LAPD.

People were advised to get off the streets and businesses were told to close in the downtown area from the Santa Monica (10) to the Santa Ana (101) freeways and the Harbor (110) Freeway to Alameda Street.

A helicopter announced that those left protesting could be arrested.

Mayor Eric Garcetti sent a message on Twitter at 10 p.m. Friday calling for calm.

“I believe in our city. L.A. is strong enough to stand for justice and walk in love,” Garcetti said.

“We respect every Angeleno’s right to protest, but violence and vandalism hurts all. Let’s remember why we march, protect each other, and bring a peaceful end to a painful night.”

People took to the streets Friday for the third consecutive night to demand justice for George Floyd, who died Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis Police Department officer, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on the 46-year-old man’s neck for several minutes while three other officers looked on.

Video footage of the arrest, in which Floyd is heard saying “I can’t breathe,” spread widely online, and all four officers were fired.

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday.

The Los Angeles Police Department was placed on tactical alert at 2:20 p.m. as a precaution ahead of the protests, according to Officer Tony Im.

“While the vast majority of individuals in Los Angeles have expressed those views in a peaceful manner, we have witnessed an increasing level of violence and property damage committed by a small number of detractors,” the LAPD said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

“The violence involved dangerous projectiles directed at our people as well as some property damage to businesses in the area. While isolated, if left unchallenged we face the potential of those actions expanding and hurting innocent individuals.”

Moore added: “We stand with our communities and rebuke any instance of police brutality as well as acts of violence or property damage.”

The issuing of a tactical alert requires all on-duty personnel to remain on duty, Im said.

“We’re going to have more people on-duty because staff is not going home… For example, all the day watch people stay on and the night watch people have started, so we have double the amount of staffing,” Im said.

More protests are scheduled Saturday.

One organized by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression calling for justice for Floyd and immediate safe release of prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility is scheduled for noon Saturday.

Demonstrators are scheduled to meet on the corner of Alhambra Avenue and Vignes Street, then caravan to the jail facilities and end with a rally at LAPD headquarters.

Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and BLD PWR will hold a rally at noon at Pan Pacific Park, 7600 Beverly Blvd., to call for an end to police brutality against unarmed black Americans and justice in the death of Floyd and for “the 601 people murdered by police in L.A. County.”

Another protest, hosted by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, is set for 1 p.m. Saturday outside LAPD’s Southeast Station, 145 W 108th St. and will include a march to the L.A. County Sheriff’s office at 1310 W. Imperial Highway.

A National Day of Protest – Los Angeles demonstration is set for 3 p.m. at Mariachi Plaza, 1831 E. First St. to “demand #MassReleaseNow for all prisoners, as well as an end to police terror and crimes” against Latinos and blacks. Masks and social distancing will be required.