By Miriam Raftery
Photos by ECM photojournalists Henri Migala, Jake Rose, Miriam Raftery, Paul Kruze and Rebecca Jefferis Williamson
June 5, 2021 (La Mesa) – A racial justice protest on May 30, 2020 erupted into a tense standoff at the La Mesa Police station followed by a night of looting, vandalism, and the burning down of three buildings in La Mesa’s historic downtown district. The events shocked and terrifed the community.
What began as a peaceful protest focused on the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, but also on a controversial stop by a La Mesa Police officer of Amaurie Johnson, a young Black man. two days before the protest and riot. A bystander's video of the Johnson incident went viral and was widely viewed as racial profiling, sparking anger. The ensuing chaos resulted in multiple injuries to protesters and widespread property damage.
One year later, however, the city has made strides toward accountability, healing racial rifts, police reforms, helping businesses that were harmed, and moving forward with rebuilding plans.