Criminal charges have been filed against dozens of people, mostly for looting, following a week of racial unrest across the Los Angeles area, prosecutors said Wednesday.
So far, 61 people are being prosecuted, and additional cases are expected to be filed this week, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a news release.
“I support the peaceful organized protests that already have brought needed attention to racial inequality throughout our society, including in the criminal justice system,” Lacey said. “I also have a constitutional and ethical duty to protect the public and prosecute people who loot and vandalize our community.”
Last week’s police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has erupted anger simmering in America for generations, prompting many to resort to extreme measures to make their disapproval of systemic racism felt. Many protesters say violence at the demonstrations was first escalated by police, who fired rubber bullets on groups chanting peacefully.
The L.A. Police Department alone arrested more than 2,700 people by Tuesday, most of them people participating peacefully who lingered in the street past curfews that have been in place since Saturday.
On Wednesday, many of those rallying in downtown L.A. were outside the criminal courthouse, calling for Lacey’s removal. She’s currently locked in a runoff with former San Francisco DA George Gascón for reelection.
Police have yet to file cases for protesters who were cited and released, according to the DA’s office.
Seventeen people are being prosecuted for incidents in the West L.A. area, including Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. The charges include felony looting, burglary and identity theft, as well as misdemeanor looting and burglary.
Charges including felony looting, attempted looting and fleeing a police officer’s vehicle were filed against 15 people in Compton, and three were charged with felony looting in Long Beach, prosecutors said.
In downtown L.A., 11 people were facing felony charges of looting, robbery and assault upon a peace officer.
Five others were charged with felony looting in Van Nuys, and six with felony or attempted looting in Norwalk. Three people are facing attempted looting charges in Norwalk, Lacey said.
A felony looting charge carries a sentence of up to three years in county jail.
A 15-year-old was also charged in juvenile court with assault upon a peace officer, officials said.
Prosecutors declined 11 cases due to insufficient evidence, and 19 were sent back to law enforcement for further investigation. Another 31 cases were sent to the L.A. City Attorney’s Office for possible filing as misdemeanors.
Some of those charged qualified for zero bail under a statewide emergency order in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But some looting case may require bail since a state of emergency was declared in L.A. County, the DA’s office said.