Zimmerman verdict protesters attack TV reporter, storm Wal-Mart
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.
News of the verdict reached Leimert Park -- the “heart and soul of black L.A.,” according to Ali -- in the midst of a celebration of Nelson Mandela‘s 95th birthday Saturday, said community member Rudolph Porter.
After midnight Tuesday, Ali tweeted to a Times reporter: “never dreamed that one of my best nights as an activist bringing people together would end up later as one of my worst nights.”
Violent demonstrators also took to the streets in Oakland again Monday night, where they shattered windows, lit fires and threw fireworks, bottles and rocks at police.
A masked man struck a waiter in the head with a hammer while the worker was trying to keep the windows protected at the Flora Restaurant and Bar, which had been vandalized over the weekend during similar protests, local media reported.
The waiter was seen bleeding and was treated by paramedics, according to reporters with the San Francisco Chronicle and the Bay Area News Group, which includes the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News.
Garbage was set on fire and fireworks were thrown at police officers, officials said, while graffiti was scrawled across buildings -- one message said “REVOLT,” according to KTVU-TV -- and some burned U.S. flags. Windows were shattered at a Men’s Wearhouse, a Comerica bank branch, and Youth Radio, according to police and media reports. A KPIX-TV reporter said vandals broke into the CBS affiliate’s television truck.
The Chronicle reported that a tear-gas canister detonated during skirmishes between protesters and officers.
Oakland police said early Tuesday that officers made nine arrests.
Times staff writers Laura J. Nelson and Rong-Gong Lin II contribued to this report.
The perils of parenting through a pandemic
What’s going on with school? What do kids need? Get 8 to 3, a newsletter dedicated to the questions that keep California families up at night.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.