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L.A. officials urge calm, vow to crack down on protesters

Los Angeles Police DepartmentPoliticsActivismGeorge ZimmermanTrayvon MartinMark Ridley-ThomasWalmart

Los Angeles officials late Monday night commended police in their response to violence following a protest of the George Zimmerman verdict and vowed to crack down on similar actions beginning Tuesday.

About 350 Los Angeles Police Department officers swarmed the Crenshaw district after groups of youths broke away from a peaceful protest in Leimert Park and stomped on cars, broke windows, set fires and attacked several people. Among those attacked were a television reporter and his cameraman, according to law enforcement authorities.

Late Monday, at least 13 people were arrested on suspicion of committing various offenses, the LAPD said. Reporter Dave Bryan and his cameraman, both of whom work for Channels 2 and 9, were attacked and one of them was taken to a hospital with a possible concussion, Lt. Andy Neiman told The Times. 

LIVE BLOG: Ongoing coverage of Crenshaw protest

Police estimated that about 150 people took part in the violence after the peaceful vigil at Leimert Park following the acquittal of Zimmerman, 29, on Saturday in Florida on second-degree murder and manslaughter in the  shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year.

At a late-night news conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti blamed the violence on a "a small group [that] has taken advantage of this situation."

He said that 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."

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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," Beck said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the area, 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.

Ridley-Thomas said the violence that erupted Monday "does not advance the cause of Trayvon Martin or his memory." 

Late Monday night, a number of streets in the area had been cleared. The LAPD declared an unlawful assembly shortly before 10 p.m.

The chaos created a nightmare for area commuters as cars were trapped around Leimert Park and bus service was cancelled on Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, Metro said. 

Earlier Monday, several protesters made their way into a Wal-Mart on Crenshaw Boulevard as guards scrambled to close security gates. A short time later, Los Angeles Police Department officers wearing helmets and carrying batons swarmed the store as others marched through the parking lot.

In Oakland, hundreds of protesters stormed Interstate 880 near downtown Monday evening and blocked traffic in southbound and northbound lanes. The protesters were cleared from the freeway and made their way downtown, authorities said.

By late Monday night, multiple arrests had been made in the downtown area as officers from neighboring jurisdictions responded to the chaos, the Oakland Police Department said.

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Twitter: @LAJourno

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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