LA to deploy more police to prevent disturbances

LOS ANGELES – After a spate of vandalism and violence, Los Angeles police vowed Tuesday to crack down with quick action and arrests if further disturbances arise from street protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of a black Florida teenager.

Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who took office barely two weeks ago, said peaceful protests are welcome but violence won’t be tolerated. Beck vowed that anyone committing violence will be arrested.

“Your actions … will reduce the power of the message of this community and that is wrong, that is a shameful act,” he said.

Los Angeles and Oakland have been flashpoints for violent reactions to Saturday’s acquittal of Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.

In the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, 14 people were arrested Monday night after about 150 people split from a peaceful demonstration at a park, running through the streets, jumping on cars, trying to break store windows and punching bystanders. A Wal-Mart store was vandalized.

A reporter and photographer for Los Angeles TV stations KCBS and KCAL also were assaulted and transported to a hospital with minor injuries. A police officer was punched in the chest on Sunday and a 24-year-old man, Brandon Bell, was charged Tuesday with battery and resisting arrest.

Deputy Chief Bob Green, who heads the LAPD’s South Bureau, said officers were pelted with rocks as they stood by monitoring the protest. He blamed the incidents on “knuckleheads” from outside the area who are trying to provoke a confrontation with police.

In Oakland on Monday night, demonstrators left a gathering at City Hall before briefly blocking Interstate 880, trying to march onto Interstate 580, throwing fireworks and assaulting a restaurant waiter with a hammer.

Oakland police used flash-bang grenades and made nine arrests for crimes including assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism.