Editors Note: The story has been updated with information on what the LBPD was carrying and the exact measurement of the rubber bullets.
The protest against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death by the Minneapolis Police Department was organized with the intention of being peaceful. And it was peaceful, until the cops interfered.
Initially the peaceful protest was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday May, 31 in front of the Long Beach Police Department Headquarters at 400 West Broadway in downtown Long Beach.
However, when the city found out, they sent out crews overnight to set up what appeared to be the Grand-Prix barriers, all around the perimeter of the downtown LBPD station.
More than 3,000 people marched through the streets of downtown Long Beach, calling out police brutality and remembering George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, two black individuals who were killed by police.
The protesters marched along all of Broadway from the Long Beach Police Department on Chestnut, to Cherry Avenue and came back on Ocean, chanting Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” before Derek Chauvin, former officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, caused Floyd to die due to asphyxiation, by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes.
At the intersection on Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos, almost everybody took a knee and had a powerful moment of silence in solidarity.
Due to the massive amount of protesters, many broke off into smaller groups, some continuing to march back to Broadway, others stopping to refuel amidst the 80-plus degree weather. Many community members were waiting on the sidelines with water and snacks to provide the protesters with.
They marched through traffic on Ocean Boulevard and Long Beach Boulevard where multiple cars honked in solidarity.
Around this time is when an emergency alert notified residents that an 8pm curfew was now being implemented by the City as a state of emergency was declared.
On the intersection of Pine Avenue and 3rd Street it was a different story. About 30 Long Beach Police Department officers formed skirmish lines to prevent protesters from walking through. Beyond the officers were an estimated 17 LBPD vehicles. Protesters continued to keep it peaceful by sitting, kneeling or standing in place.
The time was around 5:30pm It was then that another emergency alert went out stating that the curfew was now moved to 6:00pm.
The police intercom delivered a message, “I am a police officer for the City of Long Beach, I hereby declare this to be an unlawful assembly and in the name of the people of the state of California I command those assembled to immediately disperse which means to break up this assembly and leave the area. If you do not do so, you may be arrested or subject to police action. Police action could include the use of force which may result in serious injury…This force may include but is not limited to the use of impact weapons, the deployment of an electronic control device or chemical agent, or a bite from a police dog”.
The protesters continued to wait until after 6pm when the LBPD began moving towards them, warning them that if they didn’t disperse, they would be arrested. LBPD eventually drove them out.
At the same time, looters began hitting several businesses in The Pike Outlets and the City Place Shopping Center. Many peaceful protesters ran to create human barricades to prevent the looters from breaking into the businesses but they were not able to protect all.
Meanwhile LBPD had blocked in protesters on Pine Avenue and 3rd Street from all directions, North, West, South and East.
The protesters remained largely peaceful, other than some individuals in the crowd who let off fireworks aimed at officers. The protesters yelled at them to stop, that this was supposed to be peaceful protest.
A black man stood with his child on his shoulders in front of the police, although they did not shoot them, multiple cops had their guns raised at them. An important note, not all LBPD had body cameras on them.
Tensions grew higher as people from the condo buildings upstairs on the corner began throwing objects down, some hitting the peaceful protesters, others almost hitting police. Protesters attempted to keep the peace by blocking objects throws at LBPD by the ill-intent individuals by using their signs.
LBPD began shooting towards the general direction where objects were thrown from by individuals who had different intentions than the peaceful protesters frown what The Signal Tribune witnessed specifically occur at Pine Ave. and Broadway around 6 p.m on Sunday, May 31. Police were shooting rubber bullets. The cops were also carrying handguns and batons but those were not shot at the time and location where The Signal Tribune was located at.
One of the rubber bullets almost hit one of our reporters, Kristen Farrah Naeem.
Reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, with KPCC, was struck in the neck by one of the rubber bullets. He is okay as of Monday, June 1, as his windpipe was not damaged.
I just got hit by a rubber bullet near the bottom of my throat. I had just interviewed a man with my phone at 3rd and Pine and a police officer aimed and shot me in the throat, I saw the bullet bounce onto the street @LAist @kpcc OK, that’s one way to stop me, for a while pic.twitter.com/9C2u5KmscG
— Adolfo Guzman-Lopez (@AGuzmanLopez) June 1, 2020
Being that we witnessed members of the media not being exempt from harm, The Signal Tribune attempted to find safer ground as we were narrowly missed by a firework thrown at us by an individual with ill-intent, causing even more police to shoot into the crowd.
As more LBPD vehicles and officers began boxing everyone in, many made a run towards the alleys by the Promenade to get to 3rd Street. It was here where another skirmish line had been formed by police officers being backed up by 10 cop cars and an LBPD SWAT team vehicle.
The Signal Tribune had used its own transportation but the vehicle was behind the skirmish line, with police not allowing anyone to pass them. An LBPD officer brought out his K-9 and began approaching us so we found higher ground at the top floor of parking structure C along with other civilians.
The motorcade of police vehicles along with the SWAT vehicle continued to go down 3rd Street to Pine Avenue where the rest of the peace protesters remained. LBPD then began making movement towards the top floor where we were. With the skirmish lines and motorcade having passed our vehicle we decided to make a run for the car.
It was now around 7:30pm, driving by the City Place Shopping Center, looters were breaking into multiple businesses in the Promenade including Jean Machine, Mark Schneider Fine Jewelry, Sally’s Beauty Supply and more.
It is important to note that many of the looters were from cities outside of Long Beach. There were no LBPD in sight, instead it was multiple protesters and Long Beach locals who attempted to stop the out-of-town looters and drive them out. Other local business owners stood in front of their businesses to defend them. Although many businesses boarded up their spaces for protection, looters tore of the boards and continued to break in.
The locals and the protesters were not able to stop it all. Looters ran out of stores into awaiting cars, speeding with their vehicles onto the sidewalk to get through traffic as it was announced that mutual police aid from surrounding cities and the sheriff’s department were on their way. The speeding combined with people in the street and the traffic jams causing multiple minor car crashes.
At this time it was around 8pm, multiple mom and pop shops around the city were now being looted in neighborhoods including Cambodia Town, Wrigley, Bixby Knolls, California Heights, the North side and more.
The National Guard troops were called in for assistance and about 75 arrests were made that day. Structural fires and stabbings were reported throughout the night as ambulances and fire engine sirens wailed until daytime Monday, June 1.
While most mainstream and big broadcast media mainly showcased the break-ins and grouped the looters and the peaceful protesters into one group, it is important to remember that the peaceful protesters were separate from the looters and in actuality attempted to prevent them from robbing while the police were busy boxing in the protesters on Pine Ave.
The same peaceful protesters, along with hundreds of community members, had gathered by early Monday morning to clean up areas in Long Beach that had been destroyed.