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George Zimmerman case: LAPD reinstates tactical alert due to protests

Sunday, July 14, 2013
Dozens of people protesting the George Zimmerman verdict blocked traffic along Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood Sunday, July 14, 2013. Protestors outraged over the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman were out in force in Los Angeles Sunday, July 14, 2013.

LAPD declared a tactical alert Sunday in an attempt to handle demonstrators protesting the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

The Los Angeles Coalition for Community Control Over the Police and Occupy L.A. held a demonstration at 4 p.m. at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards in South Los Angeles Sunday.

Several hundred people turned out to voice their frustrations. The event turned violent when one group of protestors split off, stopping traffic in the middle of intersection and walking down a freeway onramp on to the eastbound lanes of the 10 Freeway.

California Highway Patrol Officer Jennifer Cassidy says Interstate 10 by the Crenshaw Boulevard exit was closed for about 30 minutes due to the protestors. Some carried a large poster with a photo of Trayvon Martin, others rode bicycles as traffic came to a standstill.

Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith says at a nearby street corner a crowd threw rocks and batteries at officers, prompting them to fire beanbag rounds.

"It's a few that are throwing rocks, throwing bottles or running on the freeway that obviously we can't put up with so we have to take action on those," said Smith.

Many protesters who turned out are demanding Zimmerman face federal charges for violating the 17-year-old's civil rights. They say the not guilty verdict highlights the ongoing struggle between race and justice in America.

"Even if he would have gotten some time, five or ten years would make a big difference in this community," said Alfonso Barragan of South Los Angeles. "He got off with murder. Anyone else would be in jail."

Dozens of people protesting the George Zimmerman verdict also blocked traffic along Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue Sunday. The group of 50 to 60 people soon grew to about 200 people as they left their inital site at the protest on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and headed north on La Brea Avenue toward Hollywood.

Officials say one arrest was made but most protests were peaceful.

On Sunday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted the following: "'Nonviolence is a powerful& just weapon. It is a sword that heals-MLK.' Exercise 1st Amendment and practice peace in City of Angels tonight."

Jurors reached the verdict Saturday, sparking a nation-wide response from the NAACP, celebrities and citizens.

The NAACP called on the Department of Justice to prosecute George Zimmerman after he was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

"We are outraged and heartbroken over today's verdict," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in a statement. .

"We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed," Jealous said. .

Locally, Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles also shared his thoughts.

"My disappointment has come from the sense that I don't see enough advancement in the justice system in America today," said Boyd.

The DOJ previously launched a civil rights investigation into the case. A spokeswoman said the department would continue to "evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial."

Martin's parents were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read, though Martin's father, Tracy Martin, tweeted after that he was "brokenhearted."

"Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY," Martin wrote.

The verdict heightened police presence in cities across the nation. Protests overnight were mostly peaceful, including in Sanford, Fla., where the trial took place.

Sanford Police Department Investigator Ronny Neal said it was "very quiet."

Demonstrators also peacefully took to the streets in Milwaukee, Washington, Atlanta and other cities overnight and into early morning Sunday. However in Oakland, some broke windows and vandalized a police squad car.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martin family, acknowledged the disappointment of Trayvon Martin's supporters, but he urged them not to resort to violence.

"For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful," Crump said.

In a Sunday afternoon statement, President Barack Obama called Martin's death a tragedy for America but asked that Americans respect calls for calm reflection.

"I know this case has elicited strong passions," he said. "And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

More demonstrations were held locally Saturday. Several Angelinos also took to the streets Saturday night, with no major disturbances reported. LAPD's South Bureau issued a tactical alert, but no arrests were made. However around 1 a.m. officers were forced to fire bean bags on a crowd after police say protesters threw bottles at motorcycle officers near Crenshaw and the 110 Freeway.

Hundreds of protesters also gathered at Leimert Park near Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue, and marches were held in South Los Angeles.

ABC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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