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Activists urge peace for evening Trayvon Martin prayer vigil

Activists urge peace for evening Trayvon Martin prayer vigil
LAPD officers face off with protesters at Sunset and Cahuenga boulevard (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Community leaders gathered in Leimert Park on Monday, urging protesters to be peaceful at an evening vigil honoring Trayvon Martin.

About 10 representatives from local activist organizations gathered with law enforcement and political officials to broadcast their united message: "Let's honor Trayvon Martin's legacy by not breaking the law. Let's keep it peaceful," said Najee Ali, a local activist who spoke first on the group's behalf.

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Activists called not for an end to protests, but for an emphasis on demonstrations that are calm and controlled. Citizens might be angry following the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case, they said, but traffic must continue to flow and laws should not be broken.

News of the verdict reached Leimert Park — the "heart and soul of black LA," according to Ali — in the midst of a celebration of Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday Saturday, said community member Rudolph Porter.

Porter said people crowded into a nearby restaurant and watched the news. As the end of the birthday celebration approached, the protests began.

"It's been peaceful. It's been a lot of opinions," he said of the local demonstrations. "People have been very outspoken. They feel that it has been an unfair trial."

At least eight people were arrested during protests throughout the city that stretched from Sunday into Monday morning in the wake of the verdict.

One person was arrested for battery on a peace officer near 10thStreet and Washington Boulevard and five others were arrested for failure to disperse in Hollywood during the demonstrations. Arrests were also made for vandalism and causing a disturbance.

Zimmerman, 29, was acquitted Saturday in Florida of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17.

About 80 protesters chanting "No justice, no peace"had gathered in front of the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood shortly after midnight, which police declared an unlawful assembly.

More than 100 LAPD officers in riot gear converged on the crowd, arresting protesters and telling people to disperse. Some officers fired nonlethal rounds into the crowd.

Demonstrators also temporarily blocked traffic Sunday night on the 10 Freeway in the Mid-City area.

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