Update: Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order Sunday implementing an 8 p.m. curfew through June 8.
Chaos engulfed downtown Scottsdale on Saturday night as protests quickly gave way to stealing at Scottsdale Fashion Square mall and nearby businesses.
Hundreds of people showed up to the gathering, purportedly organized via social media posts earlier in the day, and initially marched peacefully through the mall’s northern parking lot at 10 p.m.
“Are you all mad?” yelled an unidentified protest leader before the march through the mall parking lot began.
“We’re going to fight with our words,” he said. “They say this is private property; we’re going to make it public.”
Ducey's curfew e order prohibits traveling or standing on roads and other public spaces, with exceptions for law enforcement, first responders, national guard and media.There are also exceptions for those traveling to/from work attending religious services; commercial trucking and delivery services; obtaining food; caring for a family member, friend, or animal; patronizing or operating private businesses; seeking medical care or fleeing dangerous circumstances; and travel for any of the above services.
The order also allows for expanded use of the National Guard. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane signed a declaration of emergency for the city and did not rule out the use of the National Guard if the situation escalates tonight.
At a press conference, Police Chief Alan Rodbell said the department was aware of threats against Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons, located across the street in Phoenix.
On Saturday night, chants of “Justice for Floyd” and “Justice for Johnson” could be heard immediately after the march started, alluding to the death of black Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer and the fatal shooting of Dion Johnson after a purported struggle with an Arizona DPS officer.
But the event differed from protests in cities around the country including Phoenix in that any guise of political protest quickly gave way to what could only be described as a riot that engulfed the mall and surrounding area for hours.
At least some participants were protesting against police brutality and the treatment of African Americans but many who showed up appeared more focused on stealing rather than drawing attention to social justice.
The social media post circulated to organize the event seemed to express a desire to impact a largely white, affluent community like Scottsdale.
“They need to hear our cry they need to listen,” the post stated.
“I don’t care whether you rioting or peacefully protest,” it continued. “Time for action is NOW.”
But others in attendance talked openly about a desire to steal the mall and nearby stores.
“This whole bag is full…and I broke into the cash register,” said one man after emerging from a broken window at Urban Outfitters.
Scottsdale Police acknowledged that not all in attendance participated in the stealing.
“While some may have indeed come to join what they believed would be a peaceful protest, what occurred was neither peaceful, nor a protest,” a department statement said. “It was a riot that saw several dozens of individuals collectively damaging property at and near the mall, breaking into businesses and stealing the interiors.”
The department said it made 12 arrests and no officers were injured.
The department reported "millions" in damages to the mall and area businesses.
Police said they received assistance from Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, the Maricopa County Sheriff and the Department of Public Safety to contain the situation, which lasted into the early Sunday.
About 20 minutes after the protest began, protesters began walking down the center of Goldwater Avenue and Camelback Road and then broke windows under the Nordstrom’s underpass, sparking hours of chaos.
Over the next two hours, individuals broke windows at stores at the mall and stores and restaurants at the Waterfront across the street, including Crate & Barrel, Culinary Dropout, Tempurpedic, Urban Outfitters and others.
After many attempts, they broke into the Apple Store at the mall and then gained entrance to the mall itself.
Scottsdale Police Department and the city itself have been criticized for their response to the night’s events. Critics said it was too slow and allowed for a significant amount of property damage to occur.
As individuals began breaking windows and, in some cases, stealing merchandise, Scottsdale officers largely followed behind the action and did not engage with protestors.
After stealing began, a police helicopter announced the department had declared it an unlawful gathering and threatened arrest to anyone who did not disperse, but no arrests were made at the time.
Local property owners organized a press conference for Saturday afternoon to express frustration with the department’s response.
Mayoral candidate and former Councilman Bob Littlefield chastised the city leadership on social media.
“Last night’s debacle at Fashion Square was unacceptable…I believe this is the consequence of the laid-back attitude toward public safety of the current City Council majority.”
Mayor Jim Lane did not respond to a request for comment.
Planning Commissioner Larry Kush, who lives near the mall, also chastised officers the next morning for failing to do more to protect the mall, and appeared to condone violence on the stealers.
“What happened to shooting stealers like the good old days?” Kush said.
Scottsdale PD said that not all individuals were stealing, noting that “several dozen” of the hundreds in attendance were participating in vandalism and stealing.
In a statement, the department defended its response, citing a desire to avoid putting peaceful protesters or others in the area at risk.
“Life safety was the number one priority. Thus, officers were not sent in to force a violent clash with criminal antagonists,” according to the statement.
Several Scottsdale Police officers were already on site before the protest kicked off at 10 pm near the Dick’s Sporting Goods on the mall’s east end.
A handful of officers were in the mall’s parking lot standing between protestors and entrances to the mall and the sporting goods store.
As protesters marched past them, the officers warned that they should leave private property but did not make any attempt to stop what was then a peaceful procession.
Officers did not attempt to disperse protestors until around 11 p.m. – about 40 minutes after the vandalism began and after a dozen stores had already been vandalized.
It was around that time some participants broke into the Apple Store and the mall.
At that point, Scottsdale PD began marching towards the store from the mall parking lot and shooting what appeared to be tear gas canisters to disperse crowds.
The department was successful in dispersing much of the large group at the Apple Store, though protestors remained in the area for the next several hours.
It is unclear how many stores were vandalized inside the mall as Scottsdale Police are still refusing entry, referring to it as an active crime scene.
On Saturday night, Rachel Cole with 12 News reported that shots may have been fired inside the mall, citing an unnamed police officer outside the mall.
The Progress was unable to confirm this, though some protestors were armed.
By the next morning, the damage was obvious, with glass littering the sidewalks all around the mall.
Most of the damage was localized to the area immediately adjacent to the mall.
The local NBC affiliated 12 News reported that some initially reached 5th Avenue to the south but were turned back by armed residents protecting a friend’s jewelry store in the boutique shopping district.
One protestor threw a chair through the window at the Original Chop Shop restaurant at 5th Avenue and Scottsdale Road, but the other businesses in the area appeared unharmed.
The next morning dozens of residents from around the Valley came to downtown Scottsdale to help in the cleanup effort.
“It was an awful thing to see that everyone decided to do this and me and my family thought ‘why don’t we just help clean up’ because we live here and we don’t want this place to be trashed,” said Jeremy Armenta, a high school student and Scottsdale resident.
He and his family were sweeping up glass underneath the Nordstrom’s underpass.
“I just wanted them to see that there’s consequences for everyone’s actions, and to see that there’s good, too,” said his mother Amy Armenta.