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Los Angeles County Implements Curfew To Try To Quell Violence, Looting

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. In Southern California, the same pattern - peaceful demonstrations during the day and then a third night of looting. A lot of the trouble was in Santa Monica. That's the beach town with the famous boardwalk. Reporter Stephanie O'Neill was there. Good morning, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE O'NEILL, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: What did you see in Santa Monica?

O'NEILL: Well, there was a lot of vandalism and looting that started just before a 4 p.m. curfew put an end to a peaceful protest that was taking place near the Santa Monica Pier. And when protesters didn't heed orders to leave, police began using tear gas and small rubber bullets to get them moving. And while that was happening, looters began moving into the city's center, and they began smashing storefront windows, vandalizing and stealing from businesses, setting fires to several buildings and a handful of cars. They hit some big-box stores, car dealerships, a supermarket, clothing stores. And they went after a bunch of small mom and pop shops throughout the downtown area.

KING: Did you have an opportunity to talk to any of the store owners?

O'NEILL: Yeah, I did. I talked to a few of them. And one in particular named Henry Runge - for 25 years, he's owned a Santa Monica gift store and earth science museum for kids. It's called Wonders of the World. And it was pretty much destroyed when I got there.

HENRY RUNGE: They started busting the windows and just, like, looting probably around, like, 3, 3:30.

O'NEILL: Were you in the store?

RUNGE: I was around here. There was nothing I could do. It was just a mob. I tried to try to get them off as best as possible. Then they started a fire next door. I went over there and put the fire out.

O'NEILL: And now his small shop, as well as so many others here in Santa Monica, that have just opened after months of pandemic lockdown now have to deal with a new round of these huge losses.

KING: So let me ask you the big question that I think we're all trying to figure out. Were these protesters angry about the death of George Floyd, or were they there to do something else?

O'NEILL: You know, I think they were there to do something else. From what I saw and from what witnesses told me, they just were not protesters doing the looting and the vandalism. I spoke to a man named Ronaldo (ph) who didn't give me his last name. And he characterized the scene this way.

RONALDO: This is not a protest. This is anarchy. This is looting. And it's not done by Black Lives Matter. These are opportunists that's taking advantage of this situation and doing what they want to do.

O'NEILL: So it looks like two very different groups of people.

KING: Two very different groups of people. And interesting what you said - that the imposition of a curfew seemed to be what set people off, something we heard also from Joe in Washington, D.C. Reporter Stephanie O'Neill in Los Angeles. Stephanie, thanks so much.

O'NEILL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.