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They protected barrios against looting. 'Don't come here to tag up all these walls, homie'

Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Dressed in a black tank top and black shorts that stretched down to his shins, Orlando Fuentes stood in front of a boarded-up T-shirt store at the Anaheim Towne Center on Monday night. About 30 other people and a pit bull named Daisy were with him.

Everyone looked like they were ready to throw down.

Earlier that day, more than 1,000 people had peacefully marched past the downtown shopping plaza to decry police brutality. Now, it was two hours past curfew.

Nearby, an Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT armored vehicle stuffed with deputies warned anyone within hearing distance to leave. Illegal fireworks crackled in the distance. Police raced around town to pursue stragglers; deputies guarded other businesses.

But Fuentes and his homies weren't going anywhere.

"I've been coming to this store since I was a kid," explained the 30-year-old. "And no way are we going to let outsiders mess with it. We're going to stay here all night if we have to."

 

He and his friends had blocked off the driveway near the store with well-kept sports cars and trucks with poster boards that declared "Keep it moving" and "Not here." Westside Connection's "Bow Down" rattled out from a Lexus. Vehicles tried to still get in, only to be told politely but firmly to turn around.

Moved by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, his neck pinned under the knee of a police officer, mostly peaceful protesters have gathered across cities in the U.S. day after day. But in their wake, looters have vandalized property and pillaged stores.

To those standing outside the T-shirt store, it didn't matter whether they came from miles away or just around the corner.

"I'm tired of our own people doing damage to our own kind," said 25-year-old Jesus Gallo. He had just moved to Garden Grove from Minneapolis, where family members were now out of work after rioting shut down their businesses. "This is what I'm here for. We gotta protect the 'hood."

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