For the third day in a row, hundreds of people took to the streets again on Sunday night in Sacramento to protest the police related death in Minneapolis of George Floyd. Protesters clashed early and briefly with California Highway Patrol officers in riot gear at the Capitol, but then many of the demonstrators began to march through the downtown area peacefully, while carrying signs and chanting.
It wasn't until later on Sunday night, shortly before and after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors who were refusing to leave the area, that vandalism and looting began to breakout. Firefighters also responded to multiple calls during the night which appeared to have been related to the demonstrations.
Evidence of the latest damage to city businesses could be seen Sunday night and Monday morning on social media posts. An emotional Sarah Swanson, owner of the Eyes on J optometry shop, told the Sacramento Bee that she had been in the process of reopening her business after being closed for over two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she supports the message protesters are trying to deliver, but she doesn't understand why her shop was destroyed.
Police have reportedly made a stop at her store but couldn't spend much time with her, since they had to follow up on reports from several other businesses which were targeted. City crews are expected to provide materials and assistance in boarding up damaged storefronts.
State government offices will be closed Monday due to protests in the downtown Sacramento area over the weekend. The Department of Consumer Affairs announced that "due to the escalation conditions of protests" the Governor's office and CHP have advised that all offices close.
Meantime, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg took to Twitter in an attempt to recruit people to participate in the effort to clean up downtown. He retweeted a post by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership which called for people to support #DowntownSac businesses targeted by vandals and looters.
On Sunday evening Mayor Steinberg told reporters during a Zoom news conference with members of the Sacramento City Council that he was resisting both a call for the California National Guard to assist local law enforcement in keeping the peace and the establishment of a curfew. Steinberg said those options were still on the table, but he felt that mutual aid agreements between law enforcement agencies would hopefully be sufficient to quell criminal activity connected to the protesting. At the same time City officials recommended that businesses close on Sunday night.
The Mayor also suggested during that news conference that small businesses hit by vandals and looters might receive some of the $10-million in federal aid that was originally intended to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic related shutdown.
Sacramento County Attorney Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, Sacramento Chief of Police Daniel Hahn, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan issued a joint letter addressing the protests.
"Peaceful protest is a time-honored tradition in our country, and we in law enforcement strive to protect these important First Amendment rights," they wrote. "The majority of those protesting are doing so peacefully. But when protests turn violent, this endangers the community, and law enforcement must act to protect the community. As a civilized society based upon the rule of law, we will not tolerate violence, anarchy or chaos that threatens the safety of the community."
Schubert added that racism and bigotry have no place in our country.
"At the same time, I will also zealously prosecute those who choose violence, looting or lawlessness to harm our community. I join law enforcement and community leaders in calling for unity and peace, not violence and chaos, while we work together to make real progress toward equal justice."