LOS ANGELES (AP) — Protesters were expected to take to the streets in California cities again Sunday after a late-night rally in Oakland turned violent following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Rallies were planned in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco, a day after Zimmerman was cleared of all charges in the February 2012 death of Martin in Florida. Zimmerman has maintained the shooting was an act of self-defense. The death of an unarmed black teen unleashed debate across the U.S. over racial profiling.
The gatherings Saturday night ranged from a few dozen to a couple hundred people.
In downtown Oakland, dozens of protesters broke windows, vandalized cars and buildings and started small fires in the streets. Local media reports said some Oakland marchers vandalized a police squad car and officers formed a line to block the protesters’ path.
Footage from a television helicopter showed people spray-painting anti-police graffiti. Protesters also burned an American and a California state flag and spray painted Alameda County’s Davidson courthouse, according to the Oakland Tribune (http://bit.ly/11Newz1 ). Police said no one was injured.
In a statement Sunday, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Martin’s death “raised powerful, incredibly difficult issues” surrounding racial profiling, but she criticized vandals who “dishonored the memory of Trayvon by engaging in violent activities that hurt our growing economy and endangered people.”
“We will not tolerate violence in our city,” Quan said.
The Oakland demonstration followed a raucous but largely peaceful rally in San Francisco. Police say officers escorted demonstrators as they marched on the city’s Mission District. The group was dispersed by 10 p.m.
The verdict also sparked protests in Los Angeles, where demonstrators gathered in Leimert Park, the city’s historically black neighborhood. Police were put on tactical alert, but there were no reports of arrests.
Police spokesman Lt. Andrew Neiman said a group of about 100 people surrounded an officer securing an on-ramp to Interstate 10 on Saturday night. The officer, fearing for his safety, asked for help. After more officers arrived, two people threw bottles and police responded with several beanbag rounds, Neiman said. The group dispersed and there were no reports of any injuries.
More than 40 people gathered at Sacramento City Hall, and the Sacramento Bee reported that protesters chanted: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. For who? Trayvon.”
A banner behind speakers read, “No justice, no peace!”