Hundreds of people gathered for a demonstration in Balboa Park on Monday for the seventh day of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and while the protest did descend into an "unlawful assembly" by some at night, it remained mostly calm during the day.
Protesters gathered to express outrage over the black man's death in the custody of a white police officer while three other officers were present. Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was charged with 3rd-degree murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter but the other officers have not been charged.
The San Diego Police Department has said it will facilitate peaceful protests to ensure people remain safe.
Around 5:45 p.m., some people made their way through downtown toward SDPD headquarters. Drivers in the area should note Broadway is closed between 13th and 15th streets.
Earlier, CalTrans San Diego announced the southbound Interstate 5 off-ramps at Front Street and 10th Avenue are closed due to demonstrations in the downtown area. The terminus of westbound State Route 94 leading into downtown is also closed, Caltrans said.
Also closed are westbound lanes of the Coronado Bridge and the southbound State Route 163 off-ramp for Park Boulevard. The bridge was reopened just before 10 p.m.
SDPD said officers had made multiple arrests for tagging as of around 8 p.m. "If you commit crimes you WILL be caught and you WILL go to jail," a tweet from the department read.
At around 9:30 p.m. SDPD said it was facilitating a protest at the Pride flag monument on University Avenue and Normal Street. One person near the crowd was arrest for tagging, and SDPD said the arrest was cheered by the rest of the group participating in the peaceful protest.
Around the same time, SDPD was guiding a large march down Park Boulevard.
Just before 10:30 p.m., SDPD reported officers were being targeted by fireworks and bottles near 14th Street and Broadway. Minutes later, the gathering was declared an unlawful assembly and protesters were urged to leave the area or risk being "cited/arrested and risk exposure to chemical agents & less-lethal force applications," SDPD tweeted.
A protest of about 200 people also formed outside of Escondido Police Department headquarters, and it was described by the department as peaceful as of around 8:45 p.m.
Sunday's demonstration in downtown San Diego drew a crowd of hundreds at first and about 1,000 people by the end of the day. The group remained peaceful for the majority of the day, carrying "Black Lives Matter" and "I can't breathe" signs and echoing chants of "No Justice, No Peace" and others.
The tone shifted around 3 p.m., when a few members of the crowd began to hurl water bottles and rocks at a line of armored police officers blocking Broadway. Officers declared an "unlawful assembly order" and unleashed tear gas, pepper balls and flashbangs at those that refused to disperse.
As the evening progressed, some of the demonstrators turned to violence, smashing in windows of businesses in the area surrounding Horton Plaza and looting stores like a CVS Pharmacy.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer acknowledged on Monday that the majority of the group remained peaceful.
"95% of the demonstrators were peaceful last night in San Diego. The very small percentage of those who engaged in violence, they are doing a huge disservice to those that are out there peacefully demonstrating," Faulconer said.
SDPD said by the end of the night, 97 people were arrested on charges from failure to disperse to burglary, assaulting officers and vandalism. About a quarter of them were not from the San Diego area, Chief David Nisleit said at a Monday press briefing.
"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."
A group of local community members condemned the actions of the police department at Sunday's protest arguing that the department agitated the crowd with a military-like presence which could have led to more unrest.