A fourth night of protests on Tuesday in Los Angeles after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was peaceful after Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck vowed the department would take a much tougher stance during future protests to prevent more trouble.
About 100 marchers met on the steps of City Hall about 6 p.m. and after a rally marched south on Broadway and then returned there by the same route and broke up about 8:15 p.m., said Los Angeles police Officer Rosario Herrera.
There were no arrests. There was a large police presence, and at times it appeared police almost outnumbered the marchers, Herrera said.
A similar number gathered at Leimert Park and that demonstration was also peaceful. The gathering was still going on when the City Hall marchers went home. No arrests were made, Herrera said.
Rapper Nipsey Hussle was questioned by police because he was thought to have been brandishing a handgun in Leimert Park during protests over George Zimmerman’s acquittal, but he was later released, it was reported.
Hussle, 27, whose real name is Ermias Ashghedom, was detained around 8 p.m. Tuesday near Crenshaw Boulevard and 39th Street, according to reports from the scene.
The celebrity news website TMZ.com reported that the rapper was handcuffed briefly, and police then let him go after determining that he did not have a gun.
Hussle’s work includes the mixtape series “Bullets Ain’t Got No Name”and “The Marathon,” according to ihussle.com.
Beck told a regularly scheduled Police Commission meeting Tuesday morning, “We cannot allow a small group of individuals to not only damage … and strike fear in the community, but also to destroy the message of so many in the community.”
On Monday night, a 150-person strong mob split from a Leimert Park prayer vigil and rally and went on a rampage along Crenshaw Boulevard, damaging several businesses, assaulting people, vandalizing cars and blocking traffic, police said. Fourteen people were arrested.
Beck told the commission the department would not tolerate any more violent demonstrations and called on the public to “stay within the parameters of the law” if they intend to march again.
Beck also said the department would increase the number of officers in the Leimert Park area Tuesday. As many as 350 officers were deployed in the area Monday night.
Beck told the commission that LAPD gives “a lot of leeway” to demonstrators, even if they do not have a permit, to allow them freedom of speech, but added that would not be able to do the same thing Tuesday because of the circumstances of Monday night.
Of Monday night’s protesters, Beck said, “Peaceful demonstration was not what they weren’t interested in.”
Monday was the third consecutive day the LAPD went on a tactical alert in response to protesters upset over Zimmerman’s acquittal. The alert allows stations to keep officers on duty past the end of their shifts.
Beck noted that his officers also responded to six homicides over the weekend—and the department could have used the help of the more than 300 officers who were instead assigned to the demonstrations.
“We had an extremely violent weekend during which I would have loved to have used those same resources to prevent further violence but I was unable to do so,” he said. “This is a relatively small police department with a huge mission, and it taxes us to the extreme when we have to deal with situations like this.”
Of the 14 people arrested Monday, seven adults and six juveniles were suspected of failing to disperse and one was suspected of inciting a riot, according to LAPD Detective Gus Villanueva.
Firefighters put out several small fires and responded to “a couple” of minor injuries, according to Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department, which had 30 extra firefighters deployed to the area in case of trouble, along with arson investigators and chiefs who were working with the LAPD.
At a late-night news conference, Mayor Eric Garcetti lashed out at protesters who engaged in violent acts.
“The trial that we saw in Florida has ignited passions, but we have to make sure that it will not ignite this city and we see a small group that has taken this opportunity to exploit this situation—acts of vandalism, attacks against other community members,” Garcetti said.
“The Martin family was very clear that those who sympathize with their plight, the best way to honor their son and their loved one is in a nonviolent manner. People deserve to be able to express their opinions and we will continue to allow that … to happen, but people also deserve to be safe on their streets and in their cars.”
Beck said Monday night that his department wanted to facilitate the exercise of First Amendment rights by residents who want to protest peacefully, but the violence forced LAPD to take a firmer stance in terms maintaining law and order.
“Unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed by the actions of about 150 individuals who decided to break away from the peaceful protest and vandalize and assault individuals upon Crenshaw Boulevard,” he said.
“We deployed over 300 police officers. A dozen arrests, multiple incidents of vandalism, several incidences of assault—this will not be allowed to continue. Unfortunately, the rights of the many have been abused by the actions of a few.
Protesters did some damage to the Wal-Mart at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, and a window was smashed at a Jack in the Box restaurant.
At a news conference Tuesday morning near the damaged Wal-Mart, community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson announced that “community peace monitors” would be deployed in various areas that night to guard against a repetition of the violence.
“In the memory of Trayvon Martin, his mother, his father, they have asked for this repeatedly—over and over again—don’t use violence, don’t use destruction, don’t use his name, don’t use his memory for violence,” Hutchinson said.
During Monday night’s disturbance, KCAL9 reporter Dave Bryan and a cameraman were tackled by what appeared to be a pair of protesters while conducting an interview. According to the station, both were treated for minor injuries.
A KPCC-FM (89.3) reporter told another photographer she had her phone and a video card taken from her by suspects who tried to take her camera.
By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU