People cleaned up downtown Santa Monica yesterday after looters hit stores during a protest Sunday. (Matthew Hall)

This story was updated June 1 at 2:43 p.m.

People descended on downtown Santa Monica carrying brooms, dustpans and trash bags the morning after looters hit dozens of downtown stores during a protest against police violence Sunday.

Community members came out early Monday morning to clean up debris and scrub graffiti, as well as just to take a look at the destruction. City crews began boarding up storefronts last night and worked early in the morning to clean streets and sidewalks and remove graffiti.

About 100 members of the National Guard stood throughout the city carrying rifles, and officials bumped up the Monday curfew to 1:30 p.m. through 5:30 a.m. Tuesday citywide. Big Blue Bus service ended at noon and rideshare service into the city ended at 1 p.m.

Santa Monica Chief of Police Cynthia Renaud said police will be erecting barriers around shopping districts in the city. Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., downtown’s business improvement district, said they are monitoring reports of another protest at 4 p.m. Monday and recommended that businesses board up their storefronts.

Shaun Broyls, who came from Burbank to help clean up Santa Monica Monday morning, said he was embarrassed to watch people use the protest as a chance to break into stores.

“To see people out doing things that were, quite frankly, embarrassing made me want to come out and do something positive,” Broyls said. “If you look outside the looting, the protests were exactly what they needed to be … people seemed to be sticking to the message and why they were out there.”

Hundreds of people gathered downtown Sunday to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and call for an end to police violence against African Americans, joining protesters in nearly 150 cities across the United States.

Protesters walked peacefully from Montana Avenue along Ocean Avenue to the Santa Monica Pier and back toward Montana, where police prevented them from moving east.

Some individuals did not return to Montana and lingered by the pier, and many who were prevented from moving east on Montana walked back toward the pier.

By 2 p.m., a group of looters began breaking into stores as protesters continued to peacefully demonstrate on Ocean and in several other areas downtown.

As police blocked off the Third Street Promenade, looters hit stores inside Santa Monica Place, the downtown Vons, REI Co-op, and jewelry and clothing stores. Looters also targeted some businesses on Main Street and Lincoln Boulevard.

Police tried to disperse protesters after the city enacted a 4 p.m. curfew. Some protesters threw rocks and bottles at officers and police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators.

Protester Sammy Wolfson said police told protesters on Ocean Avenue to disperse at about 3:20 and fired tear gas at them when they refused to leave. Protesters had not yet thrown anything at police, he said.

“We knew there was a 4 p.m. curfew, so we thought everybody was safe until 4,” Wolfson said.

He said he didn’t expect police to use tear gas on protesters because the protest had remained peaceful for the past three hours.

“Everything was going fine until the cops showed up,” he said. “But them doing that is not going to stop the people. Every day, more people are protesting and getting involved. There’s not an end in sight.”

Some Santa Monica residents also criticized the way SMPD handled the situation, saying that the department could have directed officers away from protesters and tried to stop people from looting instead.

Renaud said Monday morning that more than 400 people were arrested after 7 p.m. Sunday and more than 95% do not live in the city. They were charged with looting, violation of curfew, burglary and assault.

She did not say how many were still in custody, but that some have been released and are collecting their belongings.

She added SMPD has been monitoring social media posts that indicate that some people are advertising protests as looting opportunities.

Nine fires that were set during the looting were put out, including one that destroyed downtown restaurant Sake House, Renaud said.

Calling Sunday one of the most devastating days in Santa Monica’s history, Mayor McKeown said he felt the peaceful protest against institutional racism that began at noon was betrayed by “opportunistic and organized criminals.” She said the damage done to businesses has created further economic challenges for the city as it recovers from the pandemic.

“We know better than to let the looters obscure the message of the protesters, who have indeed been heard,” he said. “What a small and selfish criminal element has done instead is to bring our community more closely together. We will support our local businesses to recover from this.”

At a news conference Monday morning, Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day said the city shares in the grief and outrage in the killing of George Floyd and the many other black men and women killed by police.

“Santa Monica is a community that stands in solidarity with the outcry for change and the need to end systemic racism,” he said. “But let’s be loud and clear: looting and arson are the work of opportunists hijacking a vital message and movement.”

madeleine@smdp.com

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4 Comments

  1. Where were the police for 4 hours while all of this was going on? My wife and visit SM all of the time and we see police everywhere. And then, while people are running in and out of stores for 30 minutes at a time. They are nowhere? I saw some looters in stores with a line of police 40 yards away watching!

  2. Cynthia Renaud, our super duper police chief, talks of erecting barriers in downtown Santa Monica, AFTER the damage has already been done. She and her vaunted police department were nowhere to be seen when they were needed! We are a small city! It’s not like there were all these different hot spots. It’s disgusting! She’s in way over her head. But she makes sure she takes her $300,000+ salary. She’s most incompetent and then comes on local TV and lies about how her department handled the situation. And while so many knew, she apparently didn’t know what was happening. Really? She’s the chief of police and she didn’t know. She’s got to go, to be fired!!

  3. Why was this protest allowed in the first place????
    There was enough evidence throughtout the nation to indicate that LOOTING WOULD FOLLOW. That was foregone conclusion in my mind.
    Why didn’t the Chief of Police and Mayor act preemptively??
    Other cities have had the forethought to cancel protest events today.
    We could have done the same!

    Yesterday the looters circled our neighborhoods freely in their get away cars.
    Yet some residents save the day and took things into their own hands, making citizens arrest on Montana after criminals broke into Drugtown. Thank you brave men and women. Wish there were more like them.

  4. If Chief Renaud monitors social media and posts as she says she does and knew about the coming looting, why then wasn’t she and SMPD prepared? And why was her strategy of how to deal with it so wrong? She is not fit for the position she holds.

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