Long Beach to offer help for looted businesses, as police review tactics

Volunteers sweep up broken glass at The Thickshake Factory at The Promenade. The business’s alarms were still blaring at 7 a.m.

The Long Beach City Council next week will consider creating a fund to assist businesses that were vandalized or looted during anti-police brutality protests, while the city’s police chief said his agency will review its response to the demonstrations and offshoot criminal activity.

Protesters marched through Long Beach on Sunday, May 31 in response to the Minneapolis death of George Floyd, calling for an end to police brutality.

During the marches, bands of looters targeted multiple businesses in The Pike Outlets and beyond, including a T-Mobile store, Ross, Hot Topic and others.

Mayor Robert Garcia said the council on Tuesday, June 16 will consider the creation of an assistance fund.

“We are committed to ensuring that every single business that was impacted receives direct grant assistance from the city,” he said.

“Regardless of the impact, whether it was vandalism or a complete loss or major looting — we are going to help. We are also going to partner with our local business associations and improvement districts on how to help these small businesses.”

On Monday, June 8 Long Beach police Chief Robert Luna wrote a message to the community, stressing that “the clear majority of people who were out on (May 31) were marching peacefully.”

“When a group of violent protesters began to break windows, vandalize businesses and loot stores downtown, we worked to contain the situation and minimize damage, while continuing to protect the First Amendment rights of demonstrators nearby,” Luna wrote. “Calls to the police department increased nearly four-fold as opportunists took advantage of looting and burglarized and destroyed businesses that were away from the protest route.”

Luna said his department already had hundreds of extra officers on duty due to the protest, and when violence erupted, the agency requested mutual aid from other law enforcement agencies, including the National Guard.

He called the looting and vandalism “gut-wrenching to see,” but said thanks to the stepped-up response, “we didn’t see any loss of life or critical injuries.”

Some critics and business owners have questioned police tactics in the early days of the Southland protests, questioning why there wasn’t more of a focus on arresting bands of looters as marches continued.

Following outbreaks of looting and vandalism during a massive demonstration in the Fairfax District, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said his officers had to respond to a rapidly unfolding situation involving thousands of protesters and resulted in at least two patrol vehicles being burned and some businesses being vandalized.

“It wasn’t perfect, our actions will never be,” he said at the time. “But our commitment to this community is to do our very best.”

Luna said in his message Monday, “I hurt for each business owner who now has to pick up the pieces and rebuild.”

“Just as we do after every critical incident, my team and I will thoroughly debrief everything that occurred that night and we will learn from last week’s events,” he wrote.

Luna noted that in the days since the May 31 melee, 19 more protests have been held in the city, some with thousands of participants, “and we experienced no critical injuries or significant property damage.”

Santa Monica police Chief Cynthia Renaud has faced similar questions about tactics amid protests — also on May 31 — that led to vandalism and extensive looting in the city’s shopping district, particularly along Fourth Street. Renaud sent a message to residents Friday, saying her top priority “was preservation of life and protection of the city.”

“In the downtown area, we quickly saw a new type of criminal activity through mass, organized looting,” Renaud wrote. “… As that was happening, officers were actively engaged just west of them where businesses were threatened along the Third Street Promenade and in Santa Monica Place. We were successful at maintaining order in that area. We have learned from this moment and have adjusted our tactics to meet a new one.”

She said the city had assistance from other area law enforcement agencies, but even with such help, “we realized we would not be able to save every storefront and every business.”

“Broken windows can be replaced and buildings can be repaired, but the lives of Santa Monicans, peaceful protesters, my officers and even the looters, would have been impossible to restore if lost that day,” she wrote.

“Santa Monica, along with our partners in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Hollywood and Culver City, have learned from Sunday’s (May 31) events and have adjusted tactics and preparation to meet this new threat of organized, criminal looting.”

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