After a day of demonstrations that devolved into vandalism, looting and arson, the calm that swept across Long Beach on Monday, June 1, was palpable.
The wreckage, though, remained.
ATMs were destroyed. Storefronts were shattered. Clothing, jewelry and other stolen goods were strewn in the streets.
There were also 100 troops in military fatigues — National Guard members who were deployed to Long Beach in preparation for the possibility of further unrest. National Guard members also set up in the nearby Lakewood Center Monday evening, as a precaution to protect that city’s landmark mall from potential looters.
But instead of another day of thousands of protesters and a surge in crime, the soldiers were met Monday morning with more than 1,000 community members — brooms and trash bags in hand — who worked to clean up the debris.
In preparation for more potential demonstrations, Long Beach set a 1 p.m. Monday curfew for business districts and a 4 p.m. curfew citywide.
As of 7:45 p.m. Monday, it seemed the curfew — and perhaps the presence of of the National Guard — was successful in keeping people out of the city’s streets.
A night of chaos
Sunday marked the fifth day of demonstrations across the United States, with seething protesters demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota who died when a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.
Long Beach experienced what its big sister — Los Angeles — had endured over the previous few days: Protesters clashed with police, rubber bullets flew, stores got broken into and looted, and city officials asked for California to help.
“Within a few hours, that peaceful protest turned into something much deadlier, much more violent and much more dark,” Garcia said during a Sunday night press conference. “What is occurring right now in our city is both heartbreaking and should anger us. The violence, the looting is not justice.”
The full extent of the damage was still unclear Monday evening, but it seemed few of the city’s business corridors emerged unscathed.
Two businesses in Belmont Shore were damaged, according to the neighborhood’s business association. In Midtown, 11 were looted, including pharmacies, jewelry stores, markets, cell phone stores and a nail salon. In Zaferia, at least four businesses were looted. Seven shopping centers — along with a slew of other businesses and restaurants — were also hit in North Long Beach.
The Downtown Long Beach Alliance counted 67 businesses vandalized or looted in what was the city’s most impacted area.
Approximately 75 people in Long Beach were arrested and booked on suspicion of various charges, including looting, burglary and curfew violations, according to city officials.
There were more than 100 fires Sunday night, but only one structure — the Men’s Suit Outlet at Seventh Street and Pine Avenue — sustained severe damage, Long Beach Fire Chief Xavier Espino said.
There weren’t any significant injuries or deaths related to the demonstrations, but Luna said some officers were struck in the head by various objects. The officers’ helmets prevented any serious injuries, he said.
Police deployed four times as many officers as they normally would on a Sunday to prepare for what Long Beach officials expected to be a peaceful protest, Luna said. But the department had to call on aid from nearby law enforcement units to respond to calls for service all over the city.
“We were everywhere,” Luna said.
Still, as day turned to night on Sunday, people in the downtown went into retail stores and restaurants empty-handed, only to emerge holding as many items as they could. Others nearby, meanwhile, urged them to stop. A couple of dozen Long Beach police officers in riot gear approached the stores, accompanied by a SWAT vehicle and two K9s, although most would-be looters appeared to have cleared out by then.
As the chaos unfolded, several police vehicles were damaged, city officials said.
Demonstrators, meanwhile, started throwing water bottles at police officers, who returned fire with less-than-lethal bullets. The situation deteriorated into a riot.
The Police Department received some criticism for its response to looters, but the department on Sunday received about 4,800 calls for service, more than double the average, Luna said.
A day of recovery
The following morning, cleanup efforts proliferated throughout Long Beach.
Rafael Mendez was among those out early Monday, cleaning the damage on the Pike.
Mendez, a 20-year Long Beach resident who lives on Ocean Boulevard, watched on television as Sunday’s protests across the county veered from peaceful to violent. He had a feeling the same would happen in Long Beach, Mendez said, and was confused by city officials who hadn’t called on the National Guard sooner.
“Driving here this morning, I was crying because this is my city,” Mendez said. “I’m sweeping the ground for mistakes cops made and where are they today? I’m a business owner. When I make a mistake, I pay for it; the cops should grab a broom.”
But on Monday, Garcia said during a mid-morning press conference that the city couldn’t have called on the National Guard earlier. The city had to exhaust all of its other resources, including mutual aid from other agencies, before the National Guard could be deployed.
Regardless, approximately 1,000 people helped clean up the city’s vandalism and damage early Monday morning, Garcia said. It was a “complete contrast” to Sunday night’s events, he said.
“To see our residents, many with tears in their eyes, with brooms, sweeping and cleaning,” Garcia said. “I was just awestruck and amazed by their resiliency, their love for our city and their commitment to each other.”
City News Service, staff writer Hunter Lee and photographer Brittany Murray contributed to this article.