Youths who vandalized the Crenshaw district and who police say may be responsible for a Hollywood robbery rampage have “hijacked” the message of George Zimmerman verdict protesters, a community leader said.

“It’s almost a year and a half that organizations have been constructive and positive and have been trying to send the right message for justice and fairness, and all of a sudden you have people take it into their hands and taint that,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.

“It’s been hijacked," he continued. "I think that’s a fair way to put it. People we talked to, they were not shy and they didn’t shirk away from using those terms.”

For the fourth consecutive night Tuesday, Angelenos protested Zimmerman's acquittal in the slaying of Trayvon Martin, an event overshadowed by what transpired in Hollywood.

Calls started flooding into dispatchers about 8:30 p.m. of roaming groups of youths, about 10 or 15 to a group, running into streets, stealing from stores and robbing pedestrians.

The way the suspects ran through the community and swarmed their victims mirrored the scene in Crenshaw in previous nights. Police said many of the assailants used the subway and got off at Hollywood and Vine.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the suspects “took advantage of our redeployment” for the protests.

Police are checking social media to see if it was an organized attack.

Police managed to arrest a dozen of the 40 or 50 believed to be involved. All but one are juveniles.

“You always have some take advantage to create havoc,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve seen that before, it’s not the first time. The young people doing it had nothing to do with the protests. Using violence to protest violence makes no sense.”

ALSO:

LAPD to release photos of additional Hollywood robbery suspects 

Asiana Airlines drops plan to sue TV station over fake crew names

LAPD: Roving Hollywood robbers may also be Zimmerman protest vandals

Joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna