Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Two Nights After Zimmerman Verdict, Protests Rip Through Los Angeles
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Protesters angered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin ran through the streets of Los Angeles, breaking windows and stopping traffic late Monday night as passions continued to simmer two nights after the Florida verdict. At least a dozen people were arrested.
The Los Angeles Police Department declared a tactical alert at 9 p.m. as crowds swelled in the streets, and the police later declared an unlawful assembly, allowing them to arrest protesters who did not clear the streets. The protest began at 6 p.m. as a “prayer rally” in Leimert Park that was organized by Project Islamic H.O.P.E., but police officials said about 150 people broke off from that peaceful gathering and began committing vandalism and assaults.
Further north, demonstrators in Oakland blocked traffic along Interstate 880 for a brief period during the afternoon rush hour before authorities were able to clear the road.
The unrest in Los Angeles, the site of several nights of deadly rioting after the 1992 acquittal of police officers in the Rodney King beating, came after consecutive nights of largely peaceful protests in cities like New York, Oakland, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta.
The Los Angeles protests Monday night grew in intensity as the night wore on and were centered in the city’s Crenshaw District, a core of the city’s black community. The city’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti, cut short a planned trip because of the unrest and he appealed Monday night for the protesters to remain calm, following the example of the earlier prayer vigil.
“I commend the prayer rally attendees in Leimert Park for practicing peace. I call on people in street on Crenshaw to follow their example,” he said in a Twitter posting. He later tweeted, “We should respect Martin family’s call for peace. Unlawful assembly declared. Police are clearing area.”
At a news conference late Monday night, the mayor said that 13 people had been arrested.
KABC-TV in Los Angeles quoted the California Highway Patrol as saying that the protesters closed Interstate 10 by the Crenshaw Boulevard exit for a half-hour.
In Sanford, Fla., where the killing took place, things remained largely quiet on Monday, a marked contrast to the situation a year ago when tens of thousands of protesters demanded Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest. Extra police officers went on patrol and grocery stores hired more security guards. Convenience store clerks asked to be allowed to leave early when a verdict was near.
After Saturday night’s verdict, in which the jurors accepted Mr. Zimmerman’s claim that he shot Mr. Martin in self-defense, the teenager’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were “heartbroken and devastated,” their lead lawyer said. Mr. Zimmerman’s whereabouts remained unknown to the public, and as of late Monday, according to his defense team, he had not collected the gun used in the episode, which the court had ordered released.
As protests over the verdict unfolded across the country, it became clear in Sanford that the widely forecast unrest was unlikely to come to pass.
“We might be angry about the verdict,” said Larry Williams, 55, as he sat in the air-conditioned chill of a friend’s barbershop in Goldsboro on Monday. “But why go out and do anything you would not want to do?”