After businesses were torched and looted in the city of La Mesa over the weekend, clean-up efforts continued Monday – as did the disbelief and shock over what transpired there.
“It’s really heartbreaking – definitely disappointing, actually,” La Mesa resident Rahela Antone said of the protests and unrest in her community. “It just really ticks me off that this came so close to home.”
On Saturday, as similar protests raged across the nation, a police protest -- provoked by the controversial arrest involving a black man and a white officer near a La Mesa trolley stop and the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis -- took place at the La Mesa police headquarters. Demonstrators soon marched onto Interstate 8 and remained peaceful. But hours later, as night fell, violence and looting overran the community.
Buildings – including the Chase and Union banks, and an engineering firm – and cars were set ablaze and completely destroyed. Not far away, the Vons supermarket was broken into and looted, and a delivery truck outside the store was set on fire. Several businesses near the village center were broken into, including Play It Again Sports, Pizza Hut, the Sally Beauty Supply and Crazy Fred’s comic-book store, the windows of stores shattered and their shelves ransacked.
On Saturday, nearly a thousand volunteers turned out to clear away the trash left behind by hundreds of protesters, and sweep up much of the broken glass and debris left in the wake of the violence.
By Monday, the smoke had cleared but rubble remained at the banks, with fire still smoldering at an engineering firm. Most of the La Mesa Springs Shopping Center was boarded up, and yellow caution tape blocked off access to the Vons.
As crews dealt with the aftermath, those who live in the area were still trying to understand why their community was targeted in this way. Antone said she can't help but be concerned that it could happen again.
National City police have been spotted patrolling the area, and officials told NBC 7 that other law enforcement agencies are helping out as well. While La Mesa imposed a curfew Sunday night, which was peaceful one in the East County city, it's not clear yet if a curfew will be enacted again on Monday night.