Looting and arson come close to home (but we’re fine)

I slept in this morning, woke up a few minutes before 10 am and found my phone was lit up with messages from local friends. Last night there was looting and vandalism in La Mesa Village, about 2.5 miles from where we live.

La Mesa, where we live, is a suburb of San Diego, about a dozen miles inland from the beaches. La Mesa Village is a few blocks of restaurants and antique stores and such. The village is the kind of place where you go for brunch on Sunday, followed by a stroll and some window-shopping. Lately it’s gone upscale, with some fancy restaurants.

A few days ago, a video went viral of an African-American man, Amaurie Johnson, 23, getting arrested and apparently subject to police bullying at the Grossmont Trolley Station on Fletcher Parkway here in La Mesa, within walking distance of the Village. From the news:

The nearly six-minute video shows a heated verbal exchange between Johnson and the officer. It also shows the officer forcefully push Johnson into a sitting position onto a nearby bench.

Johnson told 10News at no point did he resist or assault anyone.

“I feel as though people that look like me, um, feel the same way I do and we’re tired of it. We’re tired of having to deal with stuff like that,” he said.

Johnson said he was cited with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest.

www.10news.com/news/loca…

More background here:

www.sandiegoville.com/2020/05/v…

Elsewhere, I’ve seen a long video of Johnson being interviewed by a news reporter. The video I saw is not the news video; it’s a video of the interview shot by another camera. Johnson is sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, with a phone propped up on the steering wheel. We can see him videochatting with a news reporter on the phone. The video I saw was shot from the passenger seat.

Johnson tells a compelling, articulate story that he was just standing around the transit center waiting to meet some friends, when the cop started hassling him for no good reason. I find Johnson’s story believable —. with the qualification that we don’t know what happened before the video altercation with the cop started.

Yes, I know, “we don’t know what happened before the video started” is a thing racists say. Racists say all kinds of bullshit. I’m just saying I want to hear the officer’s story, and hear from the several witnesses to the incident, before making any final conclusions.

Coming on the heels of the apparent murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis just prior, this incident got a lot of attention.

Yesterday, demonstrators started outside the La Mesa Police Department, and later closed off the highway. We could hear the action from the house – police loudspeakers saying “KEEP THE SHOULDER CLEAR,” etc. I took Minnie out for a walk anyway, and then went out myself for the second, solo part of the walk.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve been limiting my walk to a few loops around the neighborhood. The entire neighborhood is on the side of a hill, and I can see the highway from a couple of points along the walk. This was late afternoon; the traffic was moving smoothly on the highway going west, toward San Diego, but stopped going east, inland. I saw more cars than you would expect to see that time of day; I expect they were getting off the highway and traveling on surface streets instead.

I also saw about a dozen people on motor scooters, where I’d usually see only a couple of those every month. Some of them were moving in groups of two or three. I’m pretty sure they were all white people, for what it’s worth. I surmised at the time that they were demonstrators.

It seems to me that if you’re going to a demonstration, and planning to shut down the roads, or at least expect the roads might be shut down, then scooters are a good way to go in and out. From that I surmise this was not their first demonstration. They knew what they were dong.

From what I’m told on message threads from friends – I still haven’t checked the news, or social media, or left the house yet – vandalism and looting started in La Mesa Village after the demonstrations broke up. La Mesa Village is 2.5 miles from where we live. We were oblivious. We watched a movie in the living room last night. The windows were open, and we can hear the highway from the living room when the windows are open. The highway sounded particularly loud last night. We assumed that was just Saturday night. Then we went to bed.

So that’s what I know so far. Everything is fine here for us personally. House is fine – as far as I know; like I said, we haven’t been outside yet. Julie and I and the animals are fine. Later today I’ll go out and see if I can see anything around the neighborhood, or if the neighbors know anything.

And that’s the day so far. I’ve been awake nearly two hours and still haven’t finished my coffee. How is your day?

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner