LA MESA, Calif. — Hundreds of looters were able to take over La Mesa Springs Shopping Center Saturday night as police officers were off protecting other parts of the city.
The vandalism and theft throughout La Mesa erupted after nightfall following peaceful, daytime demonstrations over the death of George Floyd had ended.
Protesters used to baseball bats to smash windows and gain entrance to the Vons grocery store, Sally Beauty Supply, Play It Again Sports, Postal Annex, Roundtable Pizza, and more.
White smoke filled the Vons, apparently from fireworks being set off inside the store, as looters filed in and then carried out cases of beer and other items.
Cell phone video showed men carrying surfboards, skateboards, and motorcycle helmets out of Play It Again Sports.
The looting continued for more than an hour with no police officers on scene. A parade of vehicles drove through the parking lot occasionally squealing rubber and doing donuts as spectators cheered.
Eventually, officers from Escondido Police and Community College Police teamed up with San Diego Sheriff’s deputies to clear the parking lot and restore order. La Mesa firefighters showed up to put out smoldering fires.
Within an hour of police clearing the scene, business owners started arriving to survey the damage. Steve and Janelle Clay, owners of the Postal Annex in the shopping center for the past 17 years, said they had never seen anything like this before.
A handful of community volunteers started helping the Clays clean up the broken glass and chaos inside their store. Janelle Clay said she knew why the volunteers were there to help.
“They’re La Mesans,” she said.
RELATED: Demonstration held in La Mesa following video showing confrontation between an officer and a black man
The City of La Mesa issued a curfew for Sunday night into Monday morning following Saturday's unrest:
"Due to conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property that have arisen within the City of La Mesa as a result of rioting and looting related to a police protest on May 30, 2020, the City of La Mesa Director of Emergency and Disaster proclaimed the existence of a local emergency within the City on May 31st, 2020. Consequently, the Director of Emergency and Disaster ordered a City-wide curfew for all Citizens of and visitors to La Mesa commencing on May 31st 2020 at 7:00 p.m. and ending at 7:00 a.m. on June 1, 2020. During this timeframe, Citizens of La Mesa are encouraged to shelter in place (in a safe environment) for their personal safety. Both the proclamation of local emergency and ordering of the curfew were confirmed by the La Mesa City Council today at a 9:00 a.m. Emergency Meeting."
San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, whose district includes La Mesa, issued a statement Sunday on the protests and the path forward:
“My heart aches. People are upset and angry, and their outrage is justified. Yesterday, as protests picked up in La Mesa, I asked that they be constructive, not destructive. I said we must work together peacefully to address issues of discrimination and bigotry.
But asking for peace is not enough. People want solutions. They deserve solutions. They don’t want promises. They want a meaningful path forward -- and they want the nation to dig deep and address the underlying problems of racism and unequal treatment under the law. Obviously, as a white woman, I can’t completely understand the depth of these issues, but I want to do everything I can to help. We must all be part of the solution.
The county Board of Supervisors, at the request of Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, recently agreed to bring back its Human Relations Commission. That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s only one step. More is needed to address systemic, institutional racism.
I want to acknowledge and thank all those in law enforcement who live by the motto, ‘to protect and serve.’ They have a tough job right now. I want to recognize and thank the many La Mesa residents and others who have peacefully protested. I also want to thank the folks who have stepped up today to clean up La Mesa. The immediate outpouring of support is touching, and it sets the tone for how we need to come together to address these issues.”