(AP) Zimmerman acquittal stirs protest in Calif. cities
By TERENCE CHEA
Protesters in Los Angeles and Oakland blocked traffic and clashed with police in a day of protests in California against the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Several people were arrested in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles police said they began making arrests early Monday morning after about 80 protesters gathered in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and an unlawful assembly was declared.
More than 100 Los Angeles police officers in riot gear converged on the crowd and ordered people to disperse. Police said they made seven arrests throughout the day, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Earlier in the evening, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urge protesters Sunday night to “practice peace” in a Twitter posting, after groups of people broke off from a large march and walked onto Interstate 10 by the Crenshaw Ave. exit, shutting the busy freeway for about 30 minutes. Some carried a large poster with a photo of Martin. Others rode bicycles as traffic came to a standstill.
Officers eventually dispersed the crowd, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. However, at a nearby street corner a crowd threw rocks and flashlight batteries at officers, prompting them to fire beanbag rounds. The protest wound down late Sunday, but some scattered groups remained.
Police spokesman contacted early Monday declined to comment.
In Oakland, police confronted a crowd at a downtown intersection after a small crowd began breaking windows and spray painting graffiti Sunday night, the Oakland Tribune reported.
Protesters marched about five miles before sitting at a major street intersection and blocking traffic. The Tribune said crowd was largely peaceful, but by 10 p.m. a smaller group of protesters began vandalizing businesses.
KGO-TV reported that rocks and bottles were thrown toward police.
The police communications office said early Monday that the protest had wound down but had no information if any arrests had been made.
Demonstrations across the state were largely peaceful Sunday afternoon as hundreds took to the streets to march in support of the slain 17-year-old, blocking traffic on major streets of San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.
Police closed San Francisco’s Market Street and escorted about 400 people as they marched across downtown to the waterfront Ferry Building. The racially diverse crowd of protesters banged drums, blew whistles and held signs that declared “Zimmerman: the people say guilty,” and “The whole system is racist.”
Rand Powdrill, 41, of San Leandro, said he came to “protest the execution of an innocent black teenager.”
A similar march shut down Crenshaw Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles’ historic black neighborhood. It was peaceful until small groups broke away from the march, Smith said. By late Sunday, a few dozen remaining protesters marched to Hollywood Blvd. and put traffic at a busy intersection at a standstill.
The demonstrations came a day after Zimmerman was cleared of all charges in the February 2012 death of the 17-year-old Martin in in Florida. Zimmerman has maintained the shooting was an act of self-defense. The death of an unarmed black teen unleashed debate across the U.S. over racial profiling.
In downtown Oakland Saturday night, people broke windows, vandalized cars and buildings and started small fires in the streets. Local media reports said some Oakland marchers vandalized a police squad car and officers formed a line to block the protesters’ path.
Footage from a television helicopter showed people spray-painting anti-police graffiti.
In a statement Sunday, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Martin’s death “raised powerful, incredibly difficult issues” surrounding racial profiling, but she criticized vandals who “dishonored the memory of Trayvon by engaging in violent activities that hurt our growing economy and endangered people.”
The Oakland demonstration followed a raucous but largely peaceful rally in San Francisco. Police say officers escorted demonstrators as they marched on the city’s Mission District. The group was dispersed by 10 p.m.