LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Unabated anger over the acquittal of George Zimmerman played out Tuesday in violent protests on gritty California streets and some other cities across the nation, as well as on social media sites.
In Los Angeles, where police were forced onto emergency footing by sometimes violent protests for the third night in a row, authorities said they would adopt a “much stricter posture” in handling the protests beginning Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, the rights of the many have been abused by the actions of a few,” police Chief Charlie Beck said late Monday night after protests turned ugly.
Meanwhile, thousands of people turned to social media and online protests to voice their opinions, signing online petitions calling for civil rights charges against Zimmerman and posting pictures and essays discussing their dismay.
The Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer had been accused of wrongly killing 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin in a highly charged case that inflamed impassioned debate over race relations.
A Florida jury voted Saturday to acquit Zimmerman, a decision that has enraged protesters who believe the killing — and the verdict — reflect a double standard in American society and justice that puts an extra burden on African Americans.
It has also put renewed focus on self-defense laws like Florida’s “stand your ground” statute, which says people do not have to retreat when faced with the fear of death or serious bodily harm. Critics say Florida law made it too easy for Zimmerman to kill, and fear more such incidents now that he has been acquitted.
“Anyone walking or committing no crime can be followed or approached by another civilian and they can use deadly force and say it was self-defense,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who announced Tuesday that rallies would be held in 100 cities on Saturday in support of federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. “That is something that is frightening and cannot be allowed to sustain itself in our society.”
Civil rights leaders and Martin’s family have all called for peaceful protests. Police in Los Angeles praised one such rally Monday night in a city park.
But not all protesters have heeded the call.
On Monday, Los Angeles police arrested 14 people after protesters jumped on cars, kicked in windows, set off fireworks and possibly attacked someone, CNN affiliate KCAL reported.
The station said two members of its news staff were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
Protesters also pushed their way into a Walmart store in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw district, throwing merchandise to the ground and causing other damage, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The scene Monday followed weekend protests in Los Angeles where demonstrators hurled rocks, batteries and chunks of concrete toward police. Officers responded by shooting bean bags. Police arrested seven people Sunday.
Amid the chaos Monday night, Beck took to Twitter to plead that “violence is never the answer.”
He later warned that protesters who illegally block city streets will go to jail.
More than 550 miles to the northwest, in Oakland, California, scattered groups of protesters clashed Monday night with police.