About 100 people were arrested in downtown San Diego overnight after violence and looting followed peaceful demonstrations centered on the death of George Floyd, police confirmed.
The San Diego Police Department Chief David Nisleit said 97 people were arrested and booked into jail “for charges from failure to disperse, burglary, assaulting officers and vandalism.”
About a quarter of them were not from the San Diego area, according to the chief.
"There are people that will come to this town with the sole goal of anarchy. And that’s destruction, that’s damage, it’s violence toward people it’s violence toward law enforcement, and it’s just a full disregard for everything else," Nisleit said. "They don’t care about looting, they don’t care about setting things on fire. In fact, that’s their goal."
This isn’t our first rodeo, and we are doing our very, very best and that’s our commitment."
Police tweeted that peaceful demonstrations would be “facilitated,” while violent and destructive acts would be “addressed.”
NBC 7 headed back to the downtown area early Monday morning to look at the aftermath of the protests.
A 7-Eleven store on Fourth Avenue and E Street, across from Horton Plaza, had been among the businesses that had been broken into and looted. Windows were shattered and an employee – who said he had been there since midnight – worked to clean up the mess.
Throughout downtown, doors and windows to businesses were broken and boarded up. Graffiti with messages related to the protests was sprayed on walls. Signs – including one that read “Black Lives Matter. No Justice. No Peace.” – were strewn in some areas.
NBC 7 spoke with a man who spent much of his Monday morning pressure-washing the exterior of a downtown restaurant that had been tagged overnight. He said he had been cleaning up since 3 a.m. and planned to be there all day.
Over at a nearby physical therapy clinic, an owner also spent the morning cleaning up. A rock had been thrown through the window of his business and graffiti was sprayed on the wall outside the entrance.
He told NBC 7 things were already tough for his business because of the COVID-19 crisis, and now this.
Crews were also seen cleaning the exterior of 225 Broadway – the building that formerly housed NBC 7.
Andrew Mitchell, of All-American Lock Corp., said his business was helping to secure those shops that had been broken into around San Diego. He had been very busy over the weekend.
“We’ve been working around the clock for the last two nights,” Mitchell told NBC 7. “I think we had 20+ break-ins yesterday, and we really couldn’t handle the flow.”
Again, the damage in downtown San Diego came after a wave of peaceful marches.
For much of Sunday, demonstrators chanted, held signs and marched throughout the streets, using their rights to express their beliefs and frustrations. Things remained calm, for the most part, even as protestors stood face to face with officers outside police headquarters.
Downtown resident Beverly Williamson told NBC 7 the demonstrations were never meant to be about causing harm to the city. But, she said, voices need to be heard and Floyd’s death cannot be forgotten.
“It’s not about destruction,” Williamson said. “It’s about trying to get the country to understand that those 8 minutes and 46 seconds I watched that video – and it brought tears to my eyes – and, I was in pain because I could feel that man’s heart and I could hear him not breathing.”
Williamson said justice for Floyd includes the arrests and charging of the Minneapolis police officers involved in the incident.
“Because I fear that until they do this, there will not be rest in any place in the country,” she added. “And it’s sad to say.”
Sunday’s protest in the heart of the city began at 10 a.m. at the Hall of Justice. For many hours, the demonstration was peaceful as it made its way through the streets of downtown.
“There's no recipe to protest. Everyone's tried peacefully over decades and it was ridiculed,” protester Alexandra Scott told NBC 7. “What can you do? We pray that it stays peaceful, but a lot of people are angry.”
At around 3:20 p.m., things began to change. SDPD ordered demonstrators to disband.
"Unlawful assembly order being given in the area of Broadway. We are asking everyone to disperse immediately due to the escalation of violence by the protestors," the police department tweeted.
The protests kept moving, wearing on until after midnight.
SDPD officers followed.
J'mani Vendely, 10, told NBC 7 the march was a way to speak up for black lives.
“They're doing this for black lives, for George Floyd, Martin Luther King, all the black people that have died and they're done. They want justice,” said the boy.
By 10 p.m., demonstrators had moved onto Broadway and Pacific Highway. Again, police told the group to disperse.
At 11:41 p.m., the SDPD tweeted that officers were "taking rocks" at State Streets and Broadway, and businesses were being vandalized. Arrested were being made, police said.
At 1 a.m., the police department tweeted that several CVS and 7-Eleven stores in downtown San Diego had been broken into and vandalized by demonstrators. Police, again, told demonstrators to go home.
Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes while arresting him. The act was caught on video and, over the past week, has ignited protests across the United States.
Sunday's protests in San Diego followed a heated protest in La Mesa Saturday, where demonstrators and officers clashed. In that event, stores were looted, buildings and cars were set on fire, and officers sprayed the crowds with tear gas, flashbangs and rubber bullets.
The protests in La Mesa was also in response to a video of a controversial arrest of a black man by a white La Mesa Police Department officer earlier in the week near the Grossmont Trolley Station.