Melrose Avenue: An epicenter of riotous activity

Melrose Avenue was one of the main hotspots affected by rioting and looting overnight.

Fireworks exploded in the street. Dozens of police officers swarmed from one flashpoint to another. Masked thieves casually made off with sneakers, skirts and other merchandise from proudly upscale establishments.

One person threw a rectangular box onto Melrose Avenue, which was promptly run over by a vehicle, briefly snarling traffic.

On Sunday morning, Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger proclaimed a state of emergency in Los Angeles County to address widespread unrest  following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The proclamation will facilitate interagency response coordination and mutual aid, accelerate the procurement of vital supplies, and enable future state and federal reimbursement of costs incurred by the County.

“This emergency comes as we are in the midst of battling another emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This taxes our resources, but not our resolve,” Barger said.

“We will do everything in our power to keep our communities safe and protect lives and property. I continue to call on our residents to maintain calm and seek solutions productively, not destructively.”

Despite the 8 p.m. curfew put in place by the city of Los Angeles, Saturday night had shaped up to be a battleground the likes of which Los Angeles hadn't seen the 1992 riots, as protests against police brutality caught fire -- figuratively and literally.

As of midnight the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's West Hollywood Station had arrested eight people for looting, according to Sgt. Gabriel Akchyan, of the Sheriff's Information Bureau.

RELATED: Governor declares a state of emergency for LA County

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The Los Angeles Police Department media relations office declined to provide specific details about arrests or police actions in the West Hollywood area.

Shelton Hairston, the CEO of Enigma Brands clutched his Desert Eagle semi-automatic handgun as he tried to protect what was left of his property on the north side of Melrose Avenue west of Fairfax Avenue.

"I'll tell you right now, it's the cops' fault that this happened to us,'' he said from beside a monogrammed chair barricading the entrance, referring to the smashed-out window and other damage.

"We're dealing with the repercussions of someone else's actions against our own people, and our people can't differentiate between what is ours and what is theirs, in the middle of what is usually on the side ... of corporate America.''

And while he said he understood why the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a white police officer resonated locally, he suggested many of the rioters had misplaced their anger.

''I don't feel no way about it,'' he said, thinking about the vandalism at his shop. ``The kids that actually did it were white kids -- we got 'em on video.''

Hairston is behind 24 minority-owned brands and had a ``BLACK OWNED''
sign up in the window, which elicited positive reactions from some of those
passing by in violation of the curfew.

"So, at the end of the day it's just foolishness and unruliness ... that has no real motive or any real premise behind it,'' he said. ``It's just using a platform of Black Lives Matter -- this man who lost his life -- they're just using that platform as a reason to be radical.''

Hairston said he hopes people will be more focused on working out their frustrations with police injustices.

"Bring the war to the right people,'' he said. "If you've got a problem with somebody, bring it to the person you have a problem with.''

Compton resident Christian Tate, 30, said he came to Melrose Avenue around 9 p.m. Saturday just to see the mayhem for himself. He said he wasn't motivated to break curfew out of a sense of activism, but did empathize with those protesting police brutality by looting high-end shops.

Anthony Limon, 34, from San Fernando, said he felt the same way. He'd been taking in events in the area all day -- as an observer -- he claimed.

"To be honest with you, a lot of s***'s going on here,'' he said. "A lot of tagging -- just craziness -- just people taking back their power, you know? Because the government has us too in a bubble, and this is what happens.''

Limon said he hopes authorities listen to the underlying frustrations that allowed the political activism to take such a hold on the city.

"It ain't easy, but somebody had to do it -- so we gotta do it ourselves,'' he said. ``I think they got the message. And if they don't do something about it, it's gonna be another type of message.''