News photographers roughed up during Zimmerman protest in Oakland
This post has been updated and corrected, as noted below.
OAKLAND — Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in San Francisco and Oakland on Sunday night to express outrage at the Florida acquittal of George Zimmerman, who admitted to shooting unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin but claimed he had feared for his life.
Both protests were largely peaceful but a small number of Oakland demonstrators — some hiding their faces with bandanas, as demonstrators did during the Occupy Oakland melees — turned violent late Sunday, setting upon an Oakland Tribune photographer and KTVU cameraman with kicks and punches.
“I’m OK, but protesters had our photog on the ground,” Bay Area News Group reporter Natalie Neysa Alund tweeted a little before 11:30 p.m. Sunday. “I tried to get them off him. An #SFgate photog came to the rescue — 1 camera is destroyed.”
Shortly afterward, another reporter with the news group — which publishes the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News — followed up: “Just patched up my assailed colleague. He’s shaken but not stirred. Should be ok. Senseless.”
A KTVU tweet said that news agency’s cameraman was also “attacked by masked protesters.”
Video before the violence erupted showed the protesters burning an American flag and blocking traffic in downtown Oakland despite a police order to disperse. Protesters also vandalized a BART police vehicle.
The street anger was a variation on the theme of Saturday night’s protest, when a small group took to the streets, breaking the windows of downtown merchants, spray-painting graffiti and lighting small street fires in overturned garbage cans.
In a Sunday statement, Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said that the group numbered between 70 and 100. The Oakland Police Department sought assistance from neighboring law enforcement agencies, but there were no arrests made and no injuries reported.
[Updated at 4:30 p.m. July 15: Oakland police said about 500 people participated in Sunday’s protest, which also resulted in some broken windows and one arrest.]
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan also released a statement as businesses swept up broken glass Sunday, saying Martin’s death “raised powerful, incredibly difficult issues” surrounding racial profiling. But she criticized vandals who “dishonored the memory of Trayvon by engaging in violent activities that hurt our growing economy and endangered people.”
The lack of a conviction in Martin’s death resonated across the country — prompting a protest in Los Angeles that blocked Interstate 10 — but here in Oakland it stirred painful local memories.
Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer in the early hours of New Year’s Day in 2009 — prompting months of street protests.
The Oakland Police Department has also been subject to a court settlement for years that aims to rectify deep-seated issues of racial profiling. A court-appointed overseer recently reported that the department is making solid progress.
As in Los Angeles, more protests are expected.
[For the record, 4 p.m. July 15: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described Oscar Grant as a teenager. He was 22 when he was shot and killed.]
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