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Clean-up and repairs underway in Santa Maria after looters break into mall

Posted at 8:39 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 00:47:38-04

Peaceful protests took a destructive turn Sunday night as people looted, vandalized and set fires outside the Santa Maria Town Center.

The Santa Maria Mall opened back up Monday for the first time in months, but many thought that wasn't going to happen after a crowd was seen breaking into it the night before.

The entrance to Macy’s, Red Robin and Edwards Theaters are boarded up.

Viral video showed people breaking into the town center and stealing clothes from Rue 21.

“It was getting way out of control, people were getting shot with fireworks, people had knives, he almost got stabbed when the fight broke out,” said Adrina Chavez, who witnessed the protests. “I don't know why it wasn't more controlled and why it was allowed to go on so long."

The longer it went on, the rowdier people got, leaving a mess of broken glass and broken spirits.

“To witness that, I don't even have words,” said Chavez.

It started Sunday afternoon as a peaceful protest with a powerful message, but many said a different crowd took advantage of the movement.

“It's about Black Lives Matter and police brutality and not about driving doughnuts in the middle of the road,” said Brandon Reis, who witnessed the protests.

“Everything was peaceful until everybody decided to break into the stores, that's where I didn't agree with that,” said Daniel Hernandez, who volunteered to clean up glass at the mall.

Destruction happened on the eve of reopening and business owners at the Santa Maria Mall worried about what they would wake up to.

“I was woken up by 15 phone calls saying the mall was broken into and then I got scared,” said Sergio Diaz, owner of Sergio’s Furniture and Mattress. “I didn't know what to expect today."

The Santa Maria Police Department said it received nearly 700 calls Sunday night, most of which were related to Sunday night’s incidents.

Police Chief Phil Hansen said in a press conference Monday that he and his team have tolerance and respect for peaceful protesting, but the “tolerance stops when destruction starts.”

The illegal activity, however, didn’t delay the reopening of the Santa Maria Town Center.

Exactly a week after George Floyd's death, many are trying to recover and rebuild as cries for racial justice ring throughout the country.