Police Chief Charlie Beck vowed his department would display a stiffer stance in the face of any Trayvon Martin-related protests today after a mob last night peeled off from the site of a peaceful assembly and launched a spree of vandalism and assault in South Los Angeles, leading to 14 arrests.
The mob -- around 150 strong -- split from a Leimert Park prayer vigil and rally Monday night and went on a rampage along Crenshaw Boulevard, damaging a few businesses, assaulting people, vandalizing cars, and blocking traffic, police said.
Of the 14 people arrested, seven adults and six juveniles were suspected of failing to disperse and one was suspected of inciting a riot, said Detective Gus Villanueva of the Los Angeles Police Department's Media Relations Section.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, at a news conference with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at Leimert Park late Monday, said around 350 officers were deployed in South L.A. in response to the disturbances. A citywide tactical alert, which allows stations to keep officers on duty past the end of their shifts, was declared around 8:30 p.m., Villanueva said.
Los Angeles. Be easy. Trayvon cannot rest in peace if there is not peace in the streets. PLEASE RETWEET!— Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) July 16, 2013
Firefighters put out several small fires and responded to "a couple" of minor injuries, said 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.
Early test for @ericgarcetti. Will be interesting to see what the pundits and chattering classes say tmrw.— Seema Mehta (@LATSeema) July 16, 2013
"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 his department wants to facilitate the exercise of First Amendment rights by residents who want to protest peacefully, but the violence has forced LAPD to take a firmer stance in terms maintaining law and order.
I'm on my way home from one of the most craziest nights of my life. Its sad seeing our young people like that.— Najee Ali (@NajeeAli) July 16, 2013
'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.
"Because of that, tomorrow [Tuesday] the LAPD will have a much stricter posture in the way that we deal with people taking the streets of Crenshaw Boulevard."
Beck also warned parents to not send their children to protests in the area.
The breakaway group headed north on Crenshaw Boulevard around 5:30 p.m., then went south as police set up skirmish lines along several streets, said Lt. Andy Neiman, an LAPD spokesman.
Protesters did some damage to the Walmart at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, and a window was smashed at a Jack in the Box restaurant, according to news reports. A cameraman for KCAL9/KCBS was injured in an assault and taken away in an ambulance, a news photographer reported from the scene, and a KPCC public radio reporter told another photographer she had her phone and a video card taken from her by suspects who tried to take her camera.
KCBS photog hospitalized after attack while covering #Zimmerman protest. Reporter Dave Bryan appears OK. Awful to see colleagues targeted.— Elex Michaelson (@ABC7Elex) July 16, 2013
While covering #Zimmerman protest I had my iPhone and all my camera cards stolen by a protestor. Another man tried to take my camera.— Mae Ryan (@MaeRyan) July 16, 2013
"We are a better city than what we have seen tonight in the hands of a few people and we will make sure that the community here in South Los Angeles is safe on its streets, feels secure," said Garcetti, who cut short an East Coast trip and returned to Los Angeles Monday afternoon. "The Martin family didn't ask anybody to break car windows. They didn't ask anybody to take little kids' scooters. They didn't ask anybody to attack businesses and they certainly didn't say to take over traffic in the streets."