SANTA MONICA (CBSLA) – As another peaceful George Floyd protest against police brutality and racial injustice crisscrossed Santa Monica Thursday morning, some business owners were still cleaning up from Sunday’s looting and vandalism, remaining nervous about the possibility of more.
Optometrist Les Miller told CBSLA he is just beginning to add up the damage to his optometry office. Looters broke in on Sunday and emptied out his retail supply.
“I carry frames that are worth a lot of money, equipment, things like that, sunglasses, a lot of sunglasses, and that’s what they were targeting,” he said.
Miller was aware that protests were taking place in the city last Sunday, but never imagined something like this could happen.
“These are opportunistic, I’ll call them thugs, take advantage of smokescreens, people who are doing a peaceful demonstration for a cause, and they use that as a smokescreen to do this type of stuff,” he said.
What had started out as a peaceful protest with thousands of demonstrators devolved into destruction Sunday afternoon along the Third Street Promenade. Several stores were ransacked and nine fires were set.
More than 400 people were arrested on charges including looting, burglary and assault.
Santa Monica’s police chief said 95% of the suspects were not residents of Santa Monica. She called the looters “opportunists” who track where protests will be taking place and look to take advantage of the fact that law enforcement resources will be stretched thin.
About 100 National Guard soldiers were called in to Santa Monica Sunday night and several have remained since, keeping watch on Miller’s street.
For the first time in six days, the city of Santa Monica announced there will be no curfew order Thursday night going into Friday morning.
“You can’t live your life in fear, you have to move on,” Miller said. “And if it happens again, it happens again. We just pick up and clean up, fix up and keep going.”