Little signs of violence in latest protests
By JANIE HAR and JOHN ANTCZAK Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California authorities praised the thousands of peaceful protesters who thronged streets around the state while announcing criminal charges against more than 100 people accused of looting and violence, while police in the San Francisco Bay Area say a break-in suspect was killed when officers mistook his hammer for a gun.
The Tuesday shooting of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa in Vallejo was the only confirmed California death at the hands of law enforcement following days of massive demonstrations accompanied, at times, by attacks on police and wholesale looting of stores. Police have blamed the stealing on organized groups of thieves, not protesters.
On Wednesday — the sixth day of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — there was little sign of violence but demonstrations continued to grow. An estimated 10,000 people gathered in San Francisco while thousands more flocked on foot and in cars to Hollywood. Sacramento and smaller cities also saw protests.
In downtown Los Angeles, dozens of people sat down and waited to be arrested as an act of civil disobedience more than an hour after curfew.
Simone Jacques, 17, helped organize the San Francisco demonstration. She told the crowd that they were acknowledging “the black people who built this country against their will” and “all the brown and especially black bodies who have been murdered at the hands of police and white supremacy,” SFGate reported.
NBA stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson marched with protesters in Oakland, where some demonstrators lay down for nearly nine minutes, representing the amount of time a white police officer pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck while he pleaded for air.
Police kept a mainly hands-off policy during the day even after curfews took effect.
Some protesters in Oakland held a sit-in to defy the 8 p.m. curfew, and some had kits equipped with paper towels and vinegar in case police used tear gas, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Nearly two hours later, however, no arrests had been made.
Los Angeles police also kept a light touch, giving demonstrators an extra hour after the curfew to disperse.
More than 3,000 people had been arrested in the county since protests began last week, most accused of curfew violations.
The county also announced it had charged 61 people with crimes from previous nights, mostly looting. Sacramento County, which saw at least $10 million in property damage, filed charges against 43 people.
Orange County brought felony cases against two men, accusing one of trying to steal a police car and another of assaulting an officer by throwing rocks and bottles during demonstrations.
Los Angeles County District District Attorney Jackie Lacey has been criticized for reluctance to bring charges against police officers for misconduct. At some Los Angeles protests demonstrators have chanted for her to be removed.
She said she supports peaceful protests “that already have brought needed attention to racial inequality throughout our society, including in the criminal justice system” but has a duty to “prosecute people who loot and vandalize our community.”
As violence and break-ins dwindled, some California counties and cities shortened or announced plans to end the curfews, which were criticized by protesters and some lawmakers as restricting free speech.
San Francisco and San Jose planned to lift their curfews Thursday, followed by Alameda County on Friday.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the city will reluctantly keep its 8 p.m. curfew in place indefinitely, though police are being judicious about detaining protesters.
Los Angeles County pushed back the start of its curfew from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., a help to newly reopened restaurants and retail stores that were shut down for weeks by anti-coronavirus orders.
“It’s just killing my dinner service. But I believe the curfew helps thin out the crowds,” said Darren Melamed, owner of Pizza World restaurant that was spared the major damage that hit dozens of neighboring businesses in the Fairfax District.
The San Francisco Bay Area city of Vallejo has been a significant exception as other cities become more peaceful.
On Wednesday, Police Chief Shawny Williams released details of the police shooting that killed Monterrosa.
The chief said officers responding to calls of looting at a Walgreens around 1 a.m. Tuesday confronted about a dozen people in the parking lot. One of the suspect’s cars rammed into a police vehicle.
Officers spotted Monterrosa near the building with what appeared to be a gun in his waistband. An officer opened fire through the windshield of a police car, hitting Monterrosa. Williams said the suspected gun turned out to be a hammer.
Critics spoke out during a brief news conference by Williams, saying this was exactly the kind of police action they are protesting.
John Burris, an attorney for Monterrosa’s family, said the victim “was shot multiple times while he was on his knees and appeared to be trying to surrender.”
Elsewhere Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom made a low-key visit to Los Angeles. He helped pack lunches for a senior meal program and toured a black-owned business. He applauded additional charges that were filed against Minneapolis police in the killing of George Floyd but also said institutional racism needs to be confronted.
“This is so much bigger than the tragic death and loss of one individual,” he said. “This is the cumulative neglect of decades, centuries in this country that needs to be addressed.”
The state capital of Sacramento extended its nighttime curfew through the weekend.
“I say that very reluctantly, but we want to make sure that everybody, including protesters, are safe,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.
Antczak reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Kathleen Ronayne and Cuneyt Dil in Sacramento and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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