Communities

FIRE INVESTIGATION IN LAKESIDE

East County News Service

June 12, 2020 (Lakeside) – The San Diego County Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson detectives are investigating the cause of a fire yesterday in Lakeside, says Sergeant David Chamoo.

Deputies from the Lakeside substation responded at 2:44 p.m. to the 1600 block of Via Elisa Drive for a structure fire that threatened adjacent structures due to strong winds. The officers made evacuation notifications to nearby residences until the fire was extinguished.


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VIDEO OF THE WEEK: DANCING COWBOYS AT TEXAS ROADHOUSE WELCOME BACK CUSTOMERS


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery 

June 12, 2020 (El Cajon) - Texas Roadhouse restaurant in El Cajon is back open after the COVID-19 shutdown and already drawing a wait list.  Arrive before five for some great dinner specials.  I got a tender BBQ pulled pork dinner with all the fixings for just $10.99, chilling out with an Armadillo Punch.

As an added bonus, enjoy some dancing cowboys and cowgirls -- actually the wait staff, kicking up their heels with some Western-style line dancing. Yeehaw!


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LA MESA BUSINESSES FILE DAMAGE CLAIMS AFTER RIOT; ATTORNEY HAS TIPS ON LOSS CLAIMS DUE TO RIOTING OR PANDEMIC

GoFundMe Site raises over $200,000 to help local businesses

By Mike Allen

Photos by Henri Magala

June 12, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Steve Clay first got wind that his family’s package mail business, The Postal Annex, was being looted from an app he has on his phone.


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ILLEGAL BONFIRES HEIGHTEN RISKS AS FIRE SEASON ARRIVES: CAL FIRE HALTS BURN PERMITS

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Photo by Paul Kruze, left:  Bonfire in Rancho San Diego ignited nearby foliage, prompting fire crews to respond.

June 12, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Cal Fire has banned burn permits effective immediately, as temperatures rise across our inland region. The no-burn proclamation will remain in effect indefinitely.

Two recent illegal bonfires in a single night swiftly burned out of control recently, prompting responses by firefighters witnessed by this ECM journalist. Those incidents highlight the dangers of open burning, as temperatures rise and brush dries out across our inland region with summer drawing near.


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MORE ARRESTS MADE FOR CRIMES DURING RIOTS IN LA MESA

 

Scroll down for images of more crimes commited during the May 31 La Mesa riot, including arsonists not yet apprehended

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: This image of looters circulated widely on social media.

June 12, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police yesterday announced new arrests related to the May 30 riot in La Mesa, the latest for looting stores at Grossmont Center and the La Mesa Springs shopping center. Though the riots occurred in the aftermath of a Black Lives Matter protest over police use of force, those arrested so far include white, Hispanic and black suspects.


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LA MESA COUNCIL VOTES FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF PROTEST AND RIOT RESPONSES; HEARS HEATED COMMENTS FROM PUBLIC

By Briana Gomez

Photo by Paul Kruze: Officers guarding City Hall, where the City Clerk's office was set afire during the riot  on May 30

The City of La Mesa held a heated livestream city council meeting Tuesday with council members socially distanced via zoom,  the first public meeting since the May 30 riots that followed protests for black lives.

The Council unanimously voted to have an outside investigator review police, fire department and other city agencies’ actions during the protest and rioting that ended with multiple businesses looted, vehicles burned, two banks and a historic building burned down.  

Council members reviewed their agenda before public comments, most of which criticized the La Mesa Police Department for its recent treatment of the black community, perceived mismanagement of what began as a peaceful protest, and for not preventing the city from burning down during riots that ensued.


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LA MESA POLICE SHOT LESLIE FURCRON FOR CRYING "MURDERERS," LAWYER SAYS

By Ken and Chris Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego News Association

Photo:  Leslie Furcron, a 59-year-old grandmother who was injured during a protest in front of the La Mesa Police Department, thanked her hospital caregivers but said she is still very weak and will need nursing care. Photo by Chris Stone

June 11, 2020 (La Mesa) - Leslie Furcron spoke for three minutes outside La Mesa City Hall on Wednesday — her first public remarks since being shot in the face during a La Mesa police station protest. But her lawyer said she was wounded for being heard saying “Murderers.”


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WATER CONSERVATION GARDEN REOPENS IN MID-JUNE: BUTTERFLY RELEASES PLANNED

East County News Service
 
June 11, 2020 (El Cajon) -- As of June 15, The Water Conservation Garden reopens for members and reopens to the public on June 16, but with a small admission fee for non-members. All visitors in June will receive free ice cream and popsicles, as well as having the opportunity to visit the Dorcas E. Utter Memorial Butterfly Pavilion to view butterflies throughout June. Butterfly release dates are planned June 15, 19 and 27.

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CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT STUMBLES IN PR SNAFUS OVER RACIAL SLUR, SECRET MEETING AT CLOSED HOTEL, AND PLANS TO KEEP SCHOOLS CLOSED THIS FALL DESPITE MANY OBJECTIONS

Board to decide future use of distance learning technology at 1 p.m. today; Superintendent apologizes over staff comments

Story and photos by Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

June 11, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The Cajon Valley Union School District’s carefully controlled public relations mote has been seriously breached over the past week with embarrassing social media comments, news of secret district meetings, and documents accidentally shared by a district employee, as reported by San Diego television and newspaper media outlets.  

One report was about a CVUSD school district employee and the revelation of a document of a secret meeting held over the weekend involving Dr. David Miyashiro and four district Trustees (except not Jill Barto) at the shuttered Marriott Coronado Resort and Spa.

The district also had two protests by parents yesterday outside district headquarters, one over racism concerns raised by staff comments, the other objecting to a district plan to continue distance learning instead of in-person classes this fall -- a vote delayed until an emergency session convening this afternoon after parents raised vigorous objections.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

BRUSH FIRE IN JAMUL

 

East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts

Photos via Dan Rigger and Matthew and Shawna Schick

View videos of the Skyline Fire by Preston Brown: 

https://vimeo.com/428408454

https://vimeo.com/428417617

Update 2 p.m.:  The fire is now 100 acres and 5% contained, per Cal Fire.

Update 2:45 p.m.:  Per CalFire, evacuation orders have broadened to the area along Skyline Truck Tr. from the 15000 block to Twisted Oak Rd. Also included is the area on Wisecarver Truck Trail. A temporary evacuation point will be Regal Edwards movie theater in Rancho San DIego at 2951 Jamacha Rd., El Cajon. 

Update 6:40 p.m.: Forward spread has been stopped. The fire is 100 acres and 10% contained.  No structures or livestock were lost and there were no injuries.

June 11, 2020 (Jamul) -- Cal Fire is at the scene of a vegetation fire in the 17000 block of Skyline Truck Trail in the Lawson Valley area of Jamul.  As of 12:45 p.m. the fire is 20 acres and spreading at a moderate rate, per Cal Fire/County Fire Authority.  

Evacuation orders have been issued between the 15600 block of Skyline Truck Trail and 17700 block of Skyline Truck Trail due to the #SkylineFire, ECM news partner NBC 7 reports.

Skyline Truck Trail is closed from  Lawson Valley Rdo to Honey Springs Road in Lyons Valley. 


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: CONGRATULATIONS, CLASS OF 2020!

By Miriam Raftery

June 11, 2020 (Santee) – Rebecca Jefferis Williamson snapped these photos of the marquee at the Santee Drive-In Theater this week, where some local schools  held drive-up graduation ceremonies to maintain social distancing due to COVID-19.

Our hats are off to the class of 2020 for earning your diplomas despite the global pandemic, an economic depression, and civil unrest that has rocked our region and nation. We wish you a better and brighter future—and hope many of you will work for change to make our world a better, safer and more peaceful place for us all.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

EXCLUSIVE: ECM INTERVIEWS LA MESA MAYOR AND POLICE CHIEF ON PROTEST PREPARATIONS AND RIOT RESPONSES

 

By Miriam Raftery

Videography by Paul Kruze

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – Hours after the city of La Mesa released a timeline and incident narrative on the May 30-31 protest over police violence and the riot that ensued, ECM editor Miriam Raftery and contributing editor Paul Kruze conducted exclusive interviews with Mayor Mark Arapostathis and La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez yesterday at the La Mesa community center, seeking answers to questions on protest preparations and riot responses.


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CITY UNDER SIEGE: LA MESA RELEASES TIMELINE AND NARRATIVE ON NIGHT OF RIOT, VIOLENCE AND ARSON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left by Henri Migala:  Officers outside LMPD station vandalized with graffiti by late afternoon, shortly before rioting began.

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – The city of La Mesa has released a timeline and incident narrative of the protest and subsequent riot in La Mesa May 30-31, which reveal chilling details of an increasingly violent siege waged against police and sheriff officers as well as City Hall and businesses across the city.  Despite reinforcements pre-staged, rioting swiftly grew out of control, starting from early reports of violence starting at 4 p.m. that later escalated into hurling of bottle bombs (Molotov cocktails) at police, breaking windows on police vehicles with officers inside and attacking an armored bearcat.  Looting commenced in multiple locatoins, rocks and bottles were hurled at officers, as rioters throughout the long night and early morning hours of mayhem ignited multiple vehicles, burned down two banks and a historic building,and ignited nuermous other locations.

Police defended themselves with non-lethal weapons including tear gas, pepperballs and beanbags, striking at least two people in the head. Multiple officers were also reported injured. It remains to be seen whether the looting and burning were done by protesters or outside groups that took advantage of what began as a peaceful protest and march against police violence earlier in the day, or perhaps a combination of both.


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CALIFORNIA COAST CREDIT UNION DONATES $5,000 TO LA MESA BUSINESS RECOVERY EFFORTS

Source:  Cal Coast Credit Union

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) -- California Coast Credit Union is donating $5,000 to the La Mesa Business Disaster Recovery Fund, helping drive total donations to the cause to more than $140,000. 

 


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DEBATE RAGES ONLINE OVER YELLOW-VESTED LA MESA CIVIL DEFENSE GROUP

 

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) - Friday afternoon, several dozen people met at a boarded-up corner on La Mesa Boulevard to discuss how they might help a fledgling La Mesa CIvil Defense group. 


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MAN CHARGED WITH HAVING MOLOTOV COCKTAIL EXPLOSIVES DURING RIOT IN LA MESA

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Zachary Karas, arrested for possession of incendiary devices

Photo, right by Paul Kruze: Vons truck burning approximately one block from where Karas was arrested

June 9, 2020 (La Mesa) – The U.S. Attorneys Office has charged Zachary Alexander Karas, 28, of San Diego for possessing incendiary devices including Molotov cocktail explosive devices and fireworks In La Mesa during riots that began the night of May 30th.  Throughout that night and early in the building, multiple buildings and vehicles were set afire.

According to the complaint filed by U.S Assistant Attorney Andrew Haden, Karas and his girlfriend, Kali Braj Jonkuet, were sitting on the pavent at the corner of Allison Ave. and Spring St. in front of the trolley tracks. Officers ordered the crowd to disperse for an unlawful assembly and arrested Karas after he failed to leave. After his arrest, officers discovered that Karas possessed Molotov cocktails --two glass bottles with wicks that contained gasoline. Molotov cocktails are also known as bottle bombs or poor man’s grenades. Karas also had fireworks in his possession.

A special agent with the ATF inspected the Molotov cocktails and found them to be functioning incendiary devices.


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$10,000 REWARD OFFERED FOR INFO ON THEFTS FROM GUN SHOP DURING RIOTS IN LA MESA

By Miriam Raftery
 
June 9, 2020 (La Mesa) – A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of a man who broke into Alex Imports Shop at 7389 University Ave. in La Mesa and stole nine long guns on May 30 around 11 p.m. The burglary occurred during the rioting and looting following protests last Saturday night over racial injustice and police brutality.

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RAMONA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES 2020 GRANTS AVAILABLE

East County News Service

June 8, 2020 (Ramona, CA) – Ramona Community Foundation (RCF), an affiliate of The San Diego Foundation, announced its annual call for grant applications. In its 9th year of grantmaking, RCF invites nonprofit organizations and agencies to submit proposals that demonstrate the power to build a more vibrant Ramona community.

The goal of the grant cycle is to support programs that make Ramona a great place to live, work and play. Desirable projects will inspire community pride and revitalization, and increase the quality of life of the broader community.


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AMID PANDEMIC, ANZA BORREGO FOUNDATION ACQUIRES LANDS TO EXPAND STATE PARK

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Ursula Esser courtesy of Anza Borrego Foundation:  Base of Sheep Canyon

June 8, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – California’s largest state park is about to get even bigger. The Anza Borrego Foundation announced that it has closed escrow on several properties it plans to donate to the state to expand Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The land transfer will include 331 parcels totaling 17,598 acres over 25 years of land acquisitions.

“In response to COVID-19, there has been increased land activity. Landowners have called eager to sell, and a couple even wanted to donate their land to ABF,” a newsletter sent by the ABF to its members states.

Grant writing and land acquisition have continued even while the park has been closed off to the public due to the pandemic.


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THOUSANDS MARCH FOR JUSTICE IN SANTEE ON SUNDAY

By Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze

Photos, left and right, by Ryan Michael Darsey

Updated June 13, 2020 with additional quotes and photos.

June 8, 2020 (Santee) – Thousands of protesters held two peaceful marches and rallies Sunday in Santee to call for an end to racism and police violence.  The first kicked off near West Hills Park and proceeded to Santee Lakes. The second convened at the YMCA and marched to the Santee Sheriff’s station on Cuyamaca Street.

The first was organized by Santee residents Tasha Cassidy and Alana Ethridge, who told Patch.com that they wanted to promote “unity and diversity” to overcome “a stigma of Santee being racist.”

Far more marchers convened at the second march which began at the YMCA and ended outside the Sheriff’s station at Cuyamaca Street and Mission Gorge. Deputies stood guard, allowing marchers to proceed saetly down the nomrally busy street throught the shopping district. Many carried placards eading "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe" and other slogans.

At the Sheriff's station, speakers included 83-year-old Richard Lawrence, who marched in Selma, Alabama in 1965 with  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 


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KAISER HEALTHCARE WORKERS IN LA MESA HOLD KNEEL-DOWN FOR GEORGE FLOYD

By Miriam Raftery

June 8, 2020 (La Mesa) – Healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente in La Mesa held a kneel-down Friday, June 5th at 11:30 a.m. to honor the memory of George Floyd and support the national call for justice. The kneel-down has become a part of protests nationwide, held for eight and a half minutes, the length of time that a Minneapolis police offer knelt on Floyd’s neck before he died.

Floyd was suspected of passing a $20 counterfeit bill at a local store. The police officer who killed him has been charged with second degree murder. Several other officers who looked on but failed to intervene have also been charged with serious crimes.

His death, the latest in a string of brutal deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white policemen, has become a rallying cry across the U.S. and worldwide calling for reforms to end police brutality, racial profiling and unjustified killing by police officers.

These are the last words of George Floyd:


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STANDING TOGETHER AGAINST RACISM IN SANTEE

By Henri Migala

Protesters outside Santee Town Center

June 6, 2020 (Santee) -- I received a call Saturday, June 6 advising that people protesting police brutality in the wake of the death of Mr. George Floyd were demonstrating in front of the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee in vehicles.


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HEAD-ON COLLISION IN RAMONA KILLS 21-YEAR-OLD WOMAN

East County News Service
 
June 7, 2020 (Ramona) – A 21-year-old San Diego woman died at the scene of a head-on collision today on Wildcat Canyon Road in Ramona.
 
The woman was driving a 2016 Ford Fusion south on Wildcat Canyon just south of Ketuull Uunyaa Way around 1:20 p.m. when she lost control. Her vehicle crossed the center line and struck a 2009 Ford F-150 pickup driven by a 61-year-old woman.

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LA MESA DELAYS TIMELINE ON WEEKEND PROTESTS, VANDALISM TILL NEXT WEEK

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis said Wednesday: “We were totally overwhelmed by the situation. We were not prepared for a peaceful protest to erupt into the level of civil unrest we witnessed as the evening fell.” Photo by Chris Stone

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) - Contrary to a recent pledge, La Mesa said Friday that a timeline of events related to last weekend’s protests and vandalism won’t be released until early next week.


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: ARTISTS BRING BEAUTY BACK TO LA MESA AFTER RIOTS

 

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

 

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Artists from Art Beat San Diego have been volunteering this week to paint colorful murals in downtown La Mesa, beautifying plywood used to board of broken windows and protect undamaged businesses at the La Mesa Springs shopping center and along La Mesa Boulevard.

The action comes after the May 30 rioting, which led to vandalism of dozens of downtown businesses, looting of many, spot fires in several stores and burning down of three buidings (Chase Bank, Union Bank, and a historic building that housed the Randal Lamb engineering firm).


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CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST AMAURIE JOHNSON AFTER BODY CAM VIDEO FAILS TO BACK LMPD OFFICER’S ACCOUNT

By Kendra Sitton and Miriam Raftery

Photo: Amaurie Johnson, courtesy of Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Warning: videos contain strong language

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) The La Mesa Police Department has dropped charges against Amaurie Johnson, a black man whose controversial arrest was captured in a viral video last week.  Demostrations last Saturday at the LMPD headquarters protested the arrest of Johnson as well as the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

 La Mesa Chief of Police Walt Vasquez announced yesterday that "after a full review of all of the evidence in the criminal investigation" against Johnson, the police department will not seek prosecution "on any of the alleged misdemeanor charges."

The announcement follows release of body cam footage released June 3 showing the interactions between Johnson, 23, and La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages near the Grossmont Trolley Station on Wednesday, May 27.  That footage does not support the officer’s version of events but does show Dages pushing Johnson and grabbing his shirt.

Johnson had been arrested for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, which he denied.


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REBUILD LA MESA: GO FUND ME ACCOUNT RAISES MORE THAN $160,000

 

Update June 18, 2020:  The fund has now raised over $196,000 and has begun distributing funds, but donations are still needed.

By Miriam Raftery

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) – After riots devastated downtown La Mesa on May 30th, El Cajon Deputy Mayor Phil Ortiz teamed up with the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation and others to establish the La Mesa Business Disaster Recovery Fund.  The fund raised $50,000 in its first 13 hours last Sunday and has now surpassed $168,000 from more than 2,000 donors.

You can make a 100% tax deductible donation on GoFundMe by clicking here. 

The site states, “Our small businesses are devastated and many were already on the brink due to COVID19. La Mesa Village has been the heart of small business in the city and is a beautiful place for dining, events and memories.”


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CONFRONTATIONS HEIGHTEN RACIAL TENSIONS IN SANTEE

Threats on social media prompt preparations for potential clashes tonight or this weekend

By Miriam Raftery; ECM journalists and photographers Rebecca Jefferis Williamson, Henri Migala and Paul Kruze contributed to this report.

Photo, left by Henri Migala: Sheriff's officers cleared those on both sides of a contentious protest Monday night in Santee


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LA MESA ESTABLISHES TIP LINE FOR RIOT-RELATED CRIMES

By Miriam Raftery

Photos, left via Facebook:  Alleged looters at La Mesa Springs shopping center

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) --  The La Mesa Police Department and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced today that they will aggressively pursue the arrest and prosecution of any individuals found to have committed crimes during the riot that occurred on the evening of May 30th, 2020, in La Mesa including arson, vandalism and looting.

“We are seeking the public’s help,” a release issued by the city today states. If anyone has any information, including videos or photos, that they think might lead to identification of any suspects, please forward them to any of the following:


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WITNESS TO CHAOS

Story and photos by Jake Rose, photographer

June 5, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The afternoon protests against police violence in La Mesa on Saturday afternoon started off entirely peaceful. After the march, the crowd moved to the La Mesa Police Department parking lot, their final destination. The crowd advanced up the steps to the front door without incident and remained there chanting and cheering for about an hour, until someone in the crowd threw a small plastic water bottle towards the police guarding the building.

The police immediately responded with tear gas and concussion grenades and the crowd dispersed across the parking lot. After a few minutes, the crowd slowly reconvened in front of the police station and began chanting, until again, a water bottle was thrown and the chaos repeated itself.


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