Zimmerman verdict protests in L.A. calm after tense nights

After demonstrations were marred by rogue groups of vandals, the most recent protests Tuesday night in Los Angeles against the George Zimmerman verdict remained peaceful.

The crowd was smaller and the mood noticeably different at Leimert Park in South L.A., where demonstrators made it clear they arrived to hold a peaceful rally.

They also vowed to keep people in line after groups of young people Monday night stomped on cars, stormed into a Wal-Mart and assaulted a TV reporter and cameraman.


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On Tuesday night, when a protester tossed a crumpled flier that contained instructions on keeping the rally lawful back at a Los Angeles police officer, other demonstrators quickly pulled the protester away.

The group was demonstrating at Leimert Park following a Florida jury’s Saturday acquittal of Zimmerman, 29, on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in last year’s shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

More than 80 clustered on the sidewalk along Crenshaw Boulevard at Vernon Avenue, where a day earlier hundreds had roamed the area.

In another change from Monday, bodyguards Tuesday night were escorting TV reporters in Leimert Park, a day after KCBS/KCAL reporter Dave Bryan and cameraman Scott Torrens were assaulted during the violent Monday night protest. Torrens left the scene in an ambulance.

From the late afternoon onward, the protest had the semblance of a festival: Music blasting out of radios, artists peddling T-shirts with “I am Trayvon” spray painted on them and many families with young children joining the demonstration.

Protesters waved signs that read, “Honk for Trayvon,” others chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

An LAPD helicopter remained fixed overhead as the cars along Vernon Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard drove by, honking.

Jeanie Jones, 33, works at a hair salon in Leimert Park and had noticed the police on horseback earlier. She was unable to make it to prior protests but attended Tuesday night with her 6-month-old son.

Jones said what motivates the protest along Crenshaw “goes way deeper than what you see on the corner,” linking the shooting death of Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, with ongoing racial profiling.

“The verdict was an outrage. It sends a message that it’s OK to profile a kid and claim self-defense, when Trayvon was just defending himself,” Jones said.

Jones has two other children and said the killing and subsequent trial and verdict struck such a chord because “we all know a Trayvon and we’ve all been profiled.”

Elsewhere Tuesday night, up to 50 youths were involved in an indiscriminate crime spree across Hollywood. Bands of youths fanned out across Hollywood Boulevard, robbing tourists and storefronts at a pace similar to the vandals who stained the Zimmerman demonstrations in Crenshaw the previous two nights.

The Hollywood robberies Tuesday night were not connected to the Zimmerman protests, but officials said many of the youths involved in the Hollywood robberies were likely the same ones causing problems in Crenshaw earlier in the week.


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Twitter: @LATvives | @MattHJourno