LONG BEACH, Calif. — Carrying brooms, shovels, trash bags and cans of paint, thousands of people from Los Angeles to New York swept up glass from broken store windows, covered over graffiti and organized ransacked businesses Monday after protests over police killings of black people turned destructive once again.
Some showed up only hours after taking part in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a black man pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer who pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes. Many said cleaning felt cathartic during a dark period for a nation battling the coronavirus pandemic, the job losses that followed and now the worst racial unrest in half a century.
Bill Stuehler donned a mask Sunday and marched with a fellow nurse and other activists in Los Angeles, later trying to stop young people from breaking into stores and stealing. At home, he kept watching the violence on live feeds and fell deeper into despair.
So before sunrise, the 66-year-old grabbed brooms, a rake and a trash shovel and drove to nearby Long Beach to clean up the mess. Soon, more than 2,000 people were working side by side, scrubbing, filling trash containers and repairing what they could in the hard-hit city south of Los Angeles.