‘We can protect our own businesses’: La Mesa on guard after last weekend’s riot

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LA MESA, Calif. — Many La Mesa-area businesses will remain boarded up this weekend, a week after devastating riots swept through the community leaving behind a trail of looting and destruction.

Local authorities admitted this week they were unprepared for the rioting which began late Saturday following a peaceful demonstration protesting police violence against black Americans. San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore requested help from the National Guard with roughly 200 troops arriving in the area late this week.

In an interview with Fox 5, La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis struck an apologetic tone.

“It’s the city’s responsibility to keep people safe,” Arapostathis said. “I know I can’t control everything, but I’m taking responsibility and saying how sorry I am for all of that.”

Surveillance video at local businesses such as Pierre’s Jewelers on La Mesa Boulevard shows looters damaging property and making away with store inventory. Matt Harnden, who works nearby at Curbside Eatery & Drinkery, said he was watching the destruction as it made its way through the village.

“There were people outside defending their property — not engaging, just standing there,” Harnden said. “(It) seemed whoever had a presence, there was no problem, no altercations.”

Another local business owner, who did not want to be publicly identified, said many again are on the lookout for potential trouble this weekend.

“We can protect our own businesses,” he said. “Let the police do their own job. Let the National Guard stay over there and protect city plaza.”

As of Friday, a recovery fund intended to help East County businesses recover from the rioting was approaching $167,000, far above its initial goal of $50,000. The East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation said this week funds could be distributed to businesses as early as the last week of June.

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