A heavy glass globe hung in pieces from the ceiling of Tony’s Delicatessen on J Street in downtown Sacramento Monday morning.
“Take the little one before you mess with the big one," owner Elias Silhi said as a member of a cleanup crew stood on a ladder to remove the pieces of the light fixture. The globe was broken by people who ransacked the deli Sunday night and broke windows on J and 12th streets.
The Sacramento City Council on Monday issued a curfew order to stop the two nights of violence and theft that has followed days of peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd, the man killed by Minneapolis Police.
After taking a tour of broken windows and vacant storefronts in the downtown core, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the Sacramento Police Department has done its best to allow people to protest, but others intent on violence and destruction have changed the way the city should respond.
“It’s time to ratchet it up,” the mayor said, standing in front of Silhi’s deli.
“Destruction is not the same as peaceful protest,” Steinberg said. “Don’t dignify [violence and destruction of property] by calling it a protest,” Steinberg said.
The curfew begins at 8 p.m. Monday, ending 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Silhi says he not only supports the decision but is upset it didn’t happen sooner.
“They wiped me out, from A to Z completely destroyed,” he said.
Silhi says he appreciates the people from the protestor who tried to stop rioters from a second night of violence, but that would have been better left to the police or the California National Guard. He said the contents of his deli and his safe were stolen.
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership estimates the damage so far at $10 million.
Michael Summerfield, owner of Miosa Bride, also watched his store vandalized Sunday night. On Insight with Beth Ruyak, he said even a curfew might not have been enough.
"I believe it would have helped a little, but it was so bad, I don't believe it would have helped enough," he said. "Honesty, they need a lot of people there to help that."
Steinberg stood in front of the delicatessen and defended the decision to wait on the curfew on Monday, even though it was discussed by the council.
“It might actually have made the situation worse because it might have had the unintended consequence of sending the signal that okay if you’re going to do that to us, we’re going to come out with even greater numbers.” Steinberg said. “It’s a judgment call. I do not second-guess our police department. I think they’re doing a great job.”
Steinberg says he has been told that people on bicycles riding through the city coordinated some of the violence and destruction and called those responsible “well-organized” and mostly from “outside our community.”
Witnesses said the rioters seemed to be waiting for the police to leave an area before striking.
“All I saw was this whole street from here all the way down with police cars and then they would get a radio dispatch and then they would take off and all the cars are gone. Then the people would start looting again,” store Noor Mini-Mart clerk Jeffrey Nelson.
Police department spokesman Karl Chan says officer response has changed once it becomes dark due to the number of incidents of people throwing rocks, bricks and frozen water bottles at officers.
“We have to approach each incident that comes up with these protests at a different safety level," Chan said."We have to be able to put those officers in positions where they can effectively arrest but also do it safely. You can’t just send three officers into that. You have to send a whole contingent of officers in to deal with something like that.”
Around 500 National Guard members have been deployed to Sacramento. Officials said the guard will assist the city and county of Sacramento in “protecting key infrastructure,”
“The guard in the 1992 Rodney King riots were a stabilizing force,” said Cal OES spokesman Brian Ferguson, adding troops were used to secure areas of the city and key buildings, but were not used as frontline law enforcement.
Ferguson said San Francisco recently requested 200 guardsmen and Cal OES was able to provide local law enforcement from communities that have not had violence, like Tulare and Mariposa counties to help as part of the state’s mutual aid program. The city of Sacramento asked officers from neighboring cities and counties to assist in much the same way Sunday night.
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