Violent, armed looters overrun Santa Monica Music Center: ‘They took everything from us, and no one stopped them’

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For almost five decades, Santa Monica Music Center was an oasis of arts and education that gave all walks of life the opportunity to bond over melodies. But in the riots that reached Santa Monica on Sunday, almost everything inside was damaged or pilfered as the distraught owners looked on, and those who tried to defend the building had guns and other weapons pulled on them with no law enforcement to be found. “It was just a horror movie,” Lana Negrete, 40, who now co-owns the center with her father Chico and runs the business with her husband. “They took everything from us, and no one stopped them. It was so violating.” Nestled on 19th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, the center – started in 1972 by Cuban-Spanish brothers Paul “Chico” and Victor Fernandez – rented out musical instruments at low costs to local schools and anyone looking to learn who couldn’t afford to buy their own. Its upstairs music school brought together a vast spectrum of the southern California community from the low income and the struggling, to the young and the old, and to those who wanted to learn anything from Beethoven to Beyonce to the Beatles and beyond.