A peaceful protest of the George Zimmerman verdict in Los Angeles turned violent Monday after youths broke away from the main demonstration in Leimert Park, stomped on cars, broke windows, set fires and attacked several people.
KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV reporter Dave Bryan and his cameraman were among those who came under assault. One of the two journalists was taken to a hospital with a possible concussion, Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Andy Neiman told The Times.
Protesters also stormed a Wal-Mart in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, pushing their way through as guards scrambled to close security gates. A short while later, LAPD officers wearing helmets and carrying batons swarmed the store as others marched through the parking lot.
Young vandals who entered the Wal-Mart stormed in, threw merchandise on the ground and yelled, shoppers told a Times reporter. Some tried to break open the jewelry glass displays. The disturbance in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles caused about 350 LAPD officers to swarm the area, leading to at least 13 arrests.
Elsewhere, one young man was seen throwing a metal wastebasket at the window of a darkened Jack-in-the-Box restaurant.
The violence Monday night was the third straight night when the LAPD was placed on a citywide tactical alert, requiring officers to work beyond their regular shifts.
Police estimated that about 150 people took part in the violence after the peaceful vigil in Leimert Park following Saturday's acquittal of Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
The violence also included the apparent assaulting of bystanders and the hurling of hunks of concrete at officers on Vernon Avenue, the Los Angeles Police Department said. No injuries were reported.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged an end to the violence: "The trial that we saw in Florida has ignited passion," he said. "But we have to make sure it will not ignite the city."
At a late-night news conference, Garcetti blamed the violence on a "a small group [that] has taken advantage of this situation."
He said protesters have the right to voice their disagreement with the verdict, "but people also deserve to be safe on the streets and in their cars."
The mayor added: "The Martin family didn't ask anyone to break car windows."
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck put the public on notice that officers would be taking a more aggressive posture toward protesters beginning Tuesday. "This will not be allowed to continue," he said.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents South Los Angeles on the county Board of Supervisors, condemned the violence, which he said, "does not advance the cause of Trayvon Martin or his memory."
Ridley-Thomas said the LAPD has made significant strides in improving community relations since the deadly 1992 riots in South Los Angeles and other parts of the city following the verdict in the trial of the LAPD officers charged with beating Rodney King.
The LAPD, he said, "has taken a posture of respecting the constitutional rights of those who choose" to peacefully protest.
Earlier Monday, community leaders who organized the peaceful vigil at Leimert Park broadcast a united, nonviolent 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.
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 Zimmerman case, they said, but traffic must continue to flow and laws should not be broken.