There have been differing opinions about how the police reacted to violence from some participants at the protest in front of La Mesa police headquarters, near where I live. The teargas went across the crowd and hit people in general. On Twitter, a woman criticized how the police handled the situation. “I was in the front of the San Diego La Mesa protest, let it be known they did not give us a warning before gassing us.”
Did police do enough to prevent things getting out of control before escalating to a course of action that would further anger the crowd? Would violence have still spread beyond police headquarters to other parts of La Mesa?
I knew a policeman who owned a comic book store. He told me that he attended the 1968 Democratic convention as a civilian. In his view, the police used excessive force by hitting additional people beyond those who were causing trouble. One person would do something, and ten other people would be hit as well. He said that police would hit people on the heads rather than other parts of the body. His opinion was that police brutality happened at political protests during the 1960s and early 1970s because of a lack of quality training in riot control.
I first became aware of the protesting in La Mesa when I saw local television station videos of people occupying Interstate 8. At the time, I was grateful that I did not work that day. I could have been stuck in traffic for who knows how long. As I looked online, I found out there was a protest going on near where I'd been hours ago, the post office next to the La Mesa police headquarters. If I had stuck around, I would have been right there where the protest was taking place.
When I looked at news footage, I noticed more Caucasian and Hispanic people at the protest then black people. La Mesa resident Jesse Savage has posted videos on Facebook about his experiences going to the protest to “see what is going on.”
“I will say for the most part that the majority of the people here are not minorities. And the majority of the people here are young.” Among the protestors, Jesse saw a sign that said "even white people are sick of racist shit.”
“I’m totally on the side of people protesting and being pissed,” says Jesse. “I’m pissed too.” He says he was among the people teargassed. “I just think they threw so much at one time... that fucking dumbass next to me was throwing a water bottle at them.”
Jesse has described the pain he went through. “I got a rubber bullet through the stomach and teargas that did me in for a couple of minutes, it fucked me up, it sucked. It was worse than the OC spray that I got when I was 14 or 15.”
Despite what happened to him, “I’m definitely not blaming the cops at all. I’m blaming the fucking stupid kids who kept doing dumb shit around me, that’s why I kept trying to back away, get away from them.”
Jesse viewed the tactics of the violent protestors as futile. “These dudes [police] are in armor.” After Jesse got back in his car, he saw a man who looked like a homeless person. “Oh, he’s hurting. The teargas got him.” He yelled out to the man because of his concern. “Hey bro, anyone want a Sprite. You fucked up, you want some sprite?” Jesse kept observing the man.
“He's bending over puking. Teargas is no joke.”
Jesse saw vandalism that he feels does not advance the cause of ending police brutality. Among the property targeted, he saw a "Vons truck on fire behind Vons. Vons does not have anything to do with it. There was that and two regular cars on Allison, on fire, just regular civilian cars. That I don’t agree with. I don't agree with that at all. You know, I kept looking at my car, worrying that someone would mess with my car.” Jesse could see “fucking graffiti everywhere.”
He also witnessed looting. “They're looting the Vons, and I’m standing right there. And I saw two kids walking with two armfuls of wine bottles. So they are definitely looting, I don't know. That is another thing I don’t agree with, you know what I mean? And all those kids are coming from Vons, that’s crazy. When I was young, I was doing dumb shit. Who knows? I might have been here causing a ruckus. We’re 20 years older, we’re smarter. And the main thing is we got to raise our kids to not be like this and act the right way. You know what I mean?”
In Jesse's opinion, many people who attended the demonstration were not motivated to be there for the right reasons. “These are young kids, trying to act like a fool. There’s ways to make a statement...there are people trying to protest the right way, but there are people who definitely aren’t. They are definitely not doing it the right way. And now it seems like most of the people right now are kids just trying to cause mayhem.”
He feels things could have gone worse for him. When he got hit by a rubber bullet, his reaction was “Thank God it did not hit me in the eye or something, you know what I mean? If it had gotten in my fucking eye, I would be one-eyed Willy.”
Why would Jesse choose to place himself in danger? “It’s in my backyard, so I had to stop by and see what is going on. You know, for six years, I lived two blocks away, right down there on La Mesa Boulevard. And I’m still in La Mesa, the other side.”
“But I decided to come, man, this is my backyard. 2020 is the year I’m going to remember the rest of life. Crazy, crazy year.”