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Violence mars Trayvon Martin verdict protests

Young people vandalize businesses

City News Service | 7/18/2013, midnight
Zimmerman protesters march Sunday, July 14, 2013, along the streets of Hollywood near the CNN L.A. bureau. Alan Duke

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.