‘Peaceful and impatient’: Students lead Balboa Park protest

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) — A peaceful protest march, made up mostly of students decrying police violence against African Americans, proceeded through Balboa Park Monday afternoon, one day after a downtown San Diego protest devolved into looting and vandalism after dark.

The group of protesters began marching early Monday afternoon through the park and reached the San Diego Zoo by 2 p.m., chanting “No Justice, no peace. No racist police,” as well as the name of George Floyd, who died Memorial Day in Minneapolis after being taken into police custody.

Protest leaders could be heard urging marchers not to commit vandalism and to only use temporary means like chalk to leave messages, which many of the demonstrators employed to write messages like “Black Lives Matter” on city sidewalks.

As of 2:45 p.m., about 150 people were taking part in the rally, which was proceeding peacefully, according to police.

“We are facilitating this protest to ensure everyone remains safe,” SDPD officials advised via Twitter.

As the demonstration was getting underway, the California Highway Patrol closed some downtown freeway on- and off-ramps as a precaution. The closures included westbound state Route 94 to F Street, the First Avenue entrance to southbound I-5, and the southbound I-5 exits to 10th Avenue and Front Street, the CHP reported.

The demonstration followed a weekend of large-scale protests in La Mesa and downtown San Diego, both of which started peacefully, but ended with clashes between protesters and police and looting.

Several businesses, including a CVS pharmacy at Broadway and Fourth Avenue and a nearby 7-Eleven, were broken into and vandalized, San Diego police said.

Officers responded en masse, cornering a group of looters near Fifth Avenue and C Street. Police used tear gas and concussion grenades to control protesters and issued an unlawful assembly order along Broadway.

Early Sunday afternoon, police reported that 100 to 200 protesters were throwing rocks, bottles and other objects at officers in the 300 block of Broadway. No injuries were reported.

More than 100 people were arrested and booked on various charges, including failure to disperse, burglary, assaulting officers and vandalism, police announced Monday morning.

An even more destructive demonstration took place Saturday in La Mesa, where vandals and shoplifters broke windows, torched several buildings, looted stores and stopped traffic on Interstate 8 during a protest over an officer’s purported rough treatment of a young black man arrested last week in the East County city.

In response to the destructive civil disobedience, San Diego County officials declared a state of emergency on Sunday. The action was taken so the Sheriff’s Department could impose a curfew for unincorporated areas, county spokesman Jeff Collins said, adding that the move also would allow local leaders to seek federal reimbursement if necessary.

The curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. Sunday in unincorporated communities, including Lakeside and Spring Valley. Violation of the order is a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $1,000 or a maximum of six months in jail, or both.

City officials in Poway also imposed a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, medical personnel and members of the news media were exempted from the curfew, as were those commuting “directly to and from work, seeking emergency care, fleeing dangerous circumstances or experiencing homelessness,” according to the city.

Santee also imposed a curfew, asking residents to “please stay home and stay safe” with their families unless they need “to travel to work, seek medical care or are experiencing an emergency situation.”

The city of El Cajon, for its part, proclaimed a “dire local emergency” Sunday in the wake of protests, and also imposed an overnight curfew that went into effect at 7 p.m.

Monday morning, county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, whose district includes La Mesa, decried the violence and destruction that grew out of the protests and called on her fellow local leaders to do more to ” address systemic, institutional racism.”

“My heart aches,” Jacob said in a prepared statement. “People are upset and angry, and their outrage is justified.”

Though she had called on the protesters to remain orderly, merely “asking for peace is not enough,” Jacob said.

“People want solutions,” she said. “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. … We must all be part of the solution.”

Jacob noted that the Board of Supervisors recently agreed to bring back its Human Relations Commission.

“That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s only one step,” she said.

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