AFRICANGLOBE – Protesters angered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin ran through the streets of Los Angeles, breaking store windows, and stopping traffic and attacking passing cars and pedestrians late Monday night as passions continued to simmer two nights after the verdict in Florida. At least a dozen people were arrested.
The protest began at 6 p.m. as a “prayer rally” in Leimert Park that was organized by Project H.O.P.E., but police officials said about 150 people broke off from that peaceful gathering and began committing vandalism and assaults. 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. Fourteen people were arrested.
“We are a better city than what we have seen tonight in the hands of a few people, and we will make sure that the community here in South Los Angeles is safe on its streets,” the city’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti, said at a news conference Monday night. He appealed to the protesters to remain peaceful.
“The Martin family didn’t ask anybody to break car windows,” he said. “They didn’t ask anybody to take little kids’ scooters. They didn’t ask anyone to attack businesses. And they certainly didn’t say to take over traffic in the streets.”
Further north, demonstrators in Oakland blocked traffic along Interstate 880 for a brief period during the afternoon rush hour before the 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. In Oakland, demonstrators blocked traffic along Interstate 880 for a brief period during the afternoon rush hour Monday before authorities were able to clear the road.
The Los Angeles protests on Monday 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. Mr. Garcetti cut short a planned trip because of the unrest, after protesters blocked an on-ramp to Interstate 10 in South Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday, those protests remained largely peaceful.
“This is much bigger than just this one trial,” said Oriana Sly, a 20-year-old Los Angeles resident. She carried a sign that read “Justice for Trayvon” as she marched up Crenshaw Boulevard on Sunday night. “We people of color have always been at the bottom of the totem pole. People of color have not received our fair share with the American justice system.”
On Monday, anger once again boiled over. Protesters broke windows at Wal-Mart and several other stores. They ran through the streets, blocking traffic and repeatedly jumping on stopped cars, kicking them, dancing on the hoods. A local television news crew was attacked.
“Twenty-one years ago we witnessed what could happen when there’s a reaction to a verdict,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor who represents South Los Angeles. “Similar sentiments are being expressed here in this space, but the response of the LAPD is qualitatively different. It has taken a posture of respecting the constitutional rights of those who choose to peacefully express their point of view, even at the point of protest.”
He urged protesters to remain nonviolent, which he called “the most effective way to communicate how to address injustice.”
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 Trayvon Martin in self-defense, the teenager’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were “heartbroken and devastated,” their lead lawyer said. 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?”
By: Gerry Mullany