LOS ANGELES -- The young man flanked the shattered entry of a ransacked CVS in Santa Monica, where people had swept the shelves clean of everything from diapers to detergent. The man, who did not cover his face, admitted he was a looter. He did not apologize.
"We've got no other way of showing people how angry we are," he said.
Out of the store ran another young man, this one holding a carton of eggs. He grabbed a friend and started scanning the street for targets: police cars. "We're doing it because we can," he said.
Over in Van Nuys, a teenage boy standing outside a ravaged Skechers store held up a backpack. That was all he took. But it was enough, he said.
"We are just trying to provide and take up the opportunity that we are getting right now. That's all."
In the unprecedented reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, peaceful protest marches across Southern California in the last week have already dramatically changed the debate about police brutality and race relations.
But the massive demonstrations have been accompanied by looting in some cities around the Southland. Authorities believe most of the thefts and vandalism came from people not directly connected to the protests who used the teeming crowds as cover to steal merchandise.
Some of the looting appears to be organized, with groups driving around hitting multiple stores. For others, it was an outgrowth over the deep anger and frustration about the way blacks and others are mistreated, and they cited a host of other issues: President Trump, the privilege exposed in the college admissions scandal, and widening inequality.
"If Donald Trump is saying shoot us tonight, that is not giving us no leeway," said a teenager holding the stolen Skechers backpack Monday in Van Nuys. "That's just making things worse. If that's giving permission for the police to shoot children, innocent teenagers, things like that, that's not right."
Times reporters interviewed people of different races and backgrounds who stole from stores over the last few days. The looters, unwilling to risk prosecution, declined to provide their names.