Rioters torch banks, loot stores in La Mesa after protest turns violent

Local

Warning: Video contains coarse language

LA MESA, Calif. — Rioting, arson and looting broke out in La Mesa late Saturday night after a peaceful demonstration protesting police violence against black Americans degenerated into violence.

Video showed dozens of people, many of them wearing masks, running in and out of stores in a shopping plaza on University Avenue. Looters were seen leaving Vons with items from fans to alcohol bottles as an alarm sounded. Graffiti covered nearby walls. Others smashed the windows of Play It Again Sports, where looters ran out with dumbbells and baseball bats. At Sally Beauty, a cash register was repeatedly smashed as people left with hands full of products.

Police in riot gear walk down a street in downtown La Mesa past a burning car. (Video: OnScene TV)

Further east, SkyFOX video captured looters leaving a Walmart at Grossmont Center.

A Chase bank and a nearby Union Bank were burned to the ground, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. La Mesa officials declared a curfew from 1:30 a.m. Sunday until 7 a.m., and Mayor Mark Arapostathis has asked for state aid, the newspaper reported.

Looters broke into Sally Beauty and stole cosmetics and other products. (Video: OnScene TV)

In San Diego, police swarmed the Mission Valley area, blocking entrances to malls and shopping centers from potential looters.

About 2:30 p.m., a crowd initially took over the La Mesa Police Department parking lot to protest an officer who detained a man at the Grossmont Transit Center Wednesday. The man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer and the encounter was videotaped and appeared on social media.

Two young men smash windows at Play It Again Sports using baseball bats they took from the store. (Video: OnScene TV)

The protesters chanted “Black lives matter” and carried signs such as “no justice, no peace,” as they marched down University Avenue.

An estimated 1,000 protesters blocked Interstate 8 in both directions Saturday to demonstrate against a police officer who detained a black man earlier this week.

At first, the group was stopped when they tried to get on I-8 at the Baltimore Drive entrance by California Highway Patrol officers. But soon after, the protesters broke through the CHP line and continued marching eastbound on the freeway.

The CHP then halted traffic on I-8 eastbound and when protesters began marching on the westbound side, traffic was then halted on that side of the freeway.

About 4:30 p.m., CHP officers wearing face shields stood in a line across the freeway and squared off with protesters, some wearing face shields. A protester with a bullhorn appeared to be asking the crowd to back away from the officers, which they did. The protesters then left one side of the freeway and climbed over the center divider to get on the other side.

The following closures are in place due to police activity:  EB I-8 at Lake Murray; WB I-8 at Jackson; and the NB/SB SR-125 connectors to WB I-8.

Saturday’s protest follows a Memorial Day incident in Minneapolis when a police officer, Derek Chauvin, was videotaped pinning George Floyd to the ground with his knee on his neck, which eventually led to Floyd’s death. Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.

Outrage over Floyd’s death built across the country, and many protests have turned into rioting.

La Mesa officials said they are launching an outside investigation into the Wednesday incident.

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