While thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Long Beach Sunday to decry the in-custody death of George Floyd, looters hit stores across the downtown area, prompting officials to deploy the National Guard to the city.
The looters left storefronts smashed and glass littered across the street as they walked out the businesses carrying armfuls of merchandise near the Pike Outlets, videos posted online show.
Photos showed T-mobile, Guess and Forever 21 were among the businesses hit, with clothes left scattered on the ground after what started out as a peaceful protest with hundreds participating quickly turned chaotic as the crowds grew.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said at least seven businesses were looted.
“We’re trying to handle as much as we possibly can,” the police chief said, adding that the department didn’t expect such a large turnout and ended up asking for several hundred additional officers to come to the city from throughout Los Angeles County and beyond.
“As the protest grew, and they grew violent, unfortunately, we continued to make requests for resources. Once the county said the resources were expended, that’s when the National Guard was requested,” he explained.
Meanwhile, other protesters marched peacefully down Ocean Boulevard and throughout the downtown area as they held up signs and chanted, “I can’t breathe” in a demonstration against the death of Floyd, a black man who was pinned beneath a Minneapolis officer’s knee as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
Some protesters confronted looters, yelling at them to stop and to leave the stores alone, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“About 80% of the people are doing the right thing of blocking the streets, signs, yelling — that’s okay. What’s not okay, is you had individuals who came into the group and started to vandalize vehicles, throw items at police officers, and they’re the ones who started breaking away, went down into our Pike area and started to break windows and start looting stores,” Luna said.
The chief condemned the looters and said officers are making arrests.
“How do we celebrate the life of George Floyd, or even talking about his tragic death, when you have people committing crimes,” Luna said. “That’s not what we’re going to tolerate.”
The mayor said officials are still assessing the damage to the area, but described it as being “significant” to many minority-owned businesses.
Police issued “dispersal orders,” asking people to leave the area.
The city declared a state of emergency and ordered a citywide 8 p.m. curfew.
The City of Long Beach tweeted that its curfew is still in place, despite the county’s order enacting an earlier curfew. “Long Beach & other cities have the authority to issue different curfew hours,” Long Beach officials said.
Second Street was closed to traffic from Pacific Coast Highway to Livingston Drive around 7:30 p.m.
No further details were immediately available.
A fire erupted at a men’s clothing store at Seventh Street and Pine Avenue shortly before 10 p.m.
Aerial footage from Sky5 showed the Men’s Suit Outlet becoming rapidly engulfed in flames. The cause of the fire was unclear.
“We have a community that is strong, resilient and out there helping each other,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “Stay safe, Long Beach.”