SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Hours of lawlessness left San Francisco’s famed Union Square littered with broken windows and looted stores early Sunday and the city under a new kind of shelter in place — a law enforcement curfew.

Major retailers, who were forced to shuttered their stores in mid-March by a statewide shelter-in-place order, were targeted by mobs of mostly young people who gleefully looted, carrying away armfuls of merchandise.

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Saks 5th Ave., Victoria Secret, Cartier were among the brand-name retailers who suffered major losses and damage to their flagship stores. Looters were seen brandishing crowbars that were being used to smash windows and scrambling from store to store until they simply could not carry any more stolen merchandise.

Some looters wore COVID-19 masks to cover their faces, but other just brazenly grabbed merchandise without any facial covering hiding their identities.


At a Sunday morning news conference Mayor London Breed described the chaos.

“There were assaults on people including police officers,” she said. “There was vandalism on vehicles and businesses. There were fires lit and that is something we cannot tolerate. In watching the videos, I was extremely upset because unfortunately with some of the vandals, they thought this was a game. They thought this was funny.”

Breed also noted that there were a lot of young people taking part in the destruction.

“I also want to point out there were a lot of young people out there, juveniles. So parents ‘where were your kids?'” she said. “The fact that we had so many situation occur all over San Francisco. In a way that has tried to destroy and tear down our city is not something we are going to tolerate…We will do what we need to do to protect the city. So people are safe.”

She said the San Francisco fire department was “inundated” with 911 calls reporting fire Saturday night.

“They (the fire department) were inundated with calls about fires that were deliberately set,” she said. “With Molotov cocktails that were thrown and ignited fires. They were inundated.”

Dozens of arrests were made with SFPD Chief William Scott warning that anyone detained would be facing the full brunt of the law. He said 10 people were arrested Saturday night on felony looting charges.

“Last night our primary objective was to safe lives — make no one lost their life,” Scott said. “Because as bad as things were here, it could have been a lot worse…Thanks goodness we did not lose a life last night.”

Breed told a hastily called a late Saturday night news conference that she simply had no other choice — she was locking down the city immediately with an 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. curfew until further notice to stem the violence. She also asked the governor to have the National Guard on call to roll across the Bay Bridge and into city at a moment’s notice.

National Guard troops have already been dispatched to Los Angeles to help stem a rise in violence and looting.

Days earlier Breed was joyful as she began to lift the restrictions on local retail businesses place on them in March to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak.

“When it crosses the line, we have a responsibility to protect our city. And we will do what we need to do to do that,” said Mayor Breed during the emergency press conference. “To be clear, this is the last thing I want to do as mayor. I want peace. I want protests,  but I don’t want the kind of violence and crime we see playing out across the streets of our city to continue.”


Breed wasn’t the only mayor awakening to scenes of devastating looting. Across the San Francisco Bay in Emeryville, a popular East Bay shopping hub filled with retail stores, the landscape was filled with ransacked stores that had been targeted by gangs of looters who engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse all night with police and into the early morning hours.

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Boxes of alcohol were carried out of BevMo! Looters also emptied the Sprint store of cell phones and rushed out of Jos A Bank with arm fulls of clothing. Most of the stores have been shutdown since mid-March because of the COVID-19 shelter in place.

A Chase Bank branch was also vandalized and a nearby Ross Store also was targeted with looters exiting laden with merchandise. Looters were also seen running out of the Ashley Furniture store carrying large big screen TVs.

Emeryville police chief Jennifer G. Tejada told KPIX 5 that “several hundred young people are coming in to loot stores…I believe it has nothing to do with the community grief over the killing of George Floyd.”


Police had ringed the Bay Street Shopping Center stores nearby to keep the looters out, but they were not confronting those who were already in the process of looting the other stores.

The parking lot at the Best Buy store was littered with boxes and packing materials as some of the looters were unable to fit the large televisions they were stealing into their vehicles without taking them out of the boxes or tying them to the tops of their cars.

Despite an increased police presence that stopped the looting from the Best Buy store, there were still looters taking merchandise from a variety of businesses as of about 11:20 p.m. When officers converged on one area to stop the criminal activity, looters were simply running away and focusing their attention on a different set of shops.

Both Oakland and San Jose, ravaged by violence on Friday night, were relatively quiet on Saturday night. However, some incidents of looting and vandalism were reported Saturday night in Santa Rosa and Vallejo.

A daylong rally by hundreds of people in Santa Rosa closed Highway 101 twice. Police were also forced to used tear gas to disperse a crowd of several dozen protesters in downtown late Saturday night.

On Friday night, a Target store was looted in downtown Oakland. The Target store in Emeryville had its windows boarded up earlier in the day, but still drew the interest of the looting hordes Saturday. Looters also ransacked a Target store in Vallejo early Sunday morning.

For those hoping to pickup merchandise at their local Target Stores — one of the few large retailers who had remained open during the COVID-19 shelter in place — on Sunday, they were out of luck.

Target officials announced Saturday night they were shutting down all their Bay Area stores for as much as 14 days because the outbreak of violence related to George Floyd demonstrations. Included in that shutdown was the massive Emeryville store.

“We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing communities across the country,” the company said in a release. “At this time, we have made the decision to close a number of our stores. We anticipate most stores will be closed temporarily.”

Officials indicated the closings could last for at least 14 days.

“Additionally, team members impacted by store closures will be paid for up to 14 days of scheduled hours during store closures, including COVID-19 premium pay,” the release said. “They will also be able to work at other nearby Target locations.”

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The Bay Area stores impacted include Alameda, Bayfair, Central San Francisco, Central Berkeley, San Jose College Park, Colma, East Palo Alto, Fashion Island Foster City, Mountain View, North Hayward, Oakland, Pinole, Emeryville, Redwood City, Richmond, Serramonte, San Francisco Folsom St., San Francisco 13th St., South San Francisco, Tanforan, University Ave. Berkeley and West Lake Daly City.