Protesters rally in La Mesa, block I-8 amid week of unrest

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LA MESA, Calif. (CNS) – 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.

About 2:30 p.m., the 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.

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

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 were 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.

After 11 p.m., two banks — a Chase branch and a Union Bank branch —
were engulfed in flames on Spring Street.

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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