LA MESA, Calif. – The decision to deploy 200 National Guard troops to San Diego County this week is being met with mixed reactions as some say they’re needed while others argue their presence in local municipalities sends the wrong message.
“I think it’s great,” La Mesa business owner Janelle Clay said. “I think La Mesa could use all the protection and help that we can get. And they’re here to protect us and help us. I’m all for it.”
On Thursday, some of the troops and their vehicles were visible outside the La Mesa Civic Center and the La Mesa Police Department. They started arriving in the area Wednesday night with some seen driving Thursday morning into downtown San Diego.
Their presence comes as San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore requested their help to secure local infrastructure and prevent further property destruction. Gore pointed to recent protests where rioting broke out, leading to the burning of two banks and looting at a handful of area businesses.
“We did not have enough resources to stop the vandals and thieves from targeting law enforcement and ravaging businesses,” Gore said in a statement. “The crowd was more than we anticipated. We were out-manned. We’re not going to let that happen again.”
Also glad to see the National Guard is La Mesa resident David Anderson, who said he wishes they had come earlier and believes their presence isn’t as needed now as it was last weekend.
“The National Guard, it’s too little too late,” he said. “This should have been thought about looking at trends here in the United States and what had happened previously in the days leading up to what had happened here in La Mesa and other parts of San Diego. So this was, I think, foreseeable.”
Speaking out against bringing in the National Guard was City Council President Georgette Gómez.
“Calling out the National Guard is not the answer,” Gómez said in a statement. “Military uniforms patrolling our streets sends the wrong message. As most jurisdictions work day and night to reduce tensions and maintain calm, the Sheriff’s Department risks increasing tensions by bringing the National Guard into our city.”
But Anderson argues their presence likely serves as a psychological deterrent.
“I don’t think — given the number of guardsmen here — anyone in their right mind is going to try to do anything,” he said.