Zimmerman protests: Mayor, LAPD chief call for peaceful demonstrations

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday afternoon called on Angelenos to “practice peace” as they protest the not guilty verdict in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

“The Trayvon Martin case has ignited passion not just here in Los Angeles but throughout this country,” Garcetti said.  “But it will not ignite this city.”

Garcetti spoke outside Dorsey High School in the Crenshaw District, where hundreds of people protested Monday night. Police say a small number of people burned trash cans, smashed windows, and assaulted people. Fourteen protesters were arrested.

“No cause is advanced, no good is accomplished when a window is broken,” the mayor said. Garcetti was joined by African-American leaders and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

“We will continue to protect people’s First Amendment rights,” Beck said. “But we will not let it interfere with the rights of this community to be safe.”

The chief promised to put more police on the streets and said troublemakers who return to protest face arrest. “You will go to jail,” he said.

A protest by Occupy LA and the Answer Coalition is planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday outside City Hall. Protests are also expected in Leimert Park.  

Police and community leaders from the Crenshaw District said Monday’s protests appeared to be spontaneous. No organization or group sponsored the marches.

Garcetti said he met with students earlier in the day. One of those students, Crenshaw High School junior Timothy Walker, 16, spoke at the news conference.

“It was not justice served for Trayvon, and the community has every right to be upset," said Walker in a later interview. "But protest peacefully. You don't want to tear down your own community."

While he indicated he sympathized with protestors, Garcetti stopped short of calling on the U.S. Justice Department to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the Martin case. The mayor said he has a previously scheduled meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder during a trip to Washington D.C. later this week.

"I'm eager to hear his perspective on this," Garcetti said. "I do think the federal government should review and look at whether or not there could be charges sought."

Religious and community leaders who joined Garcetti at the news conference said they too would be out on the streets to calm any protestors who appear to be getting out of hand. Some also said they want to send a message to people angry with the verdict.

“Justice delayed does not mean justice denied,” Reverend Xavier Thompson said.

"We are encouraging leaders in the community to step out," Garcetti added.

Earlier in the day, community activists in South Los Angeles Tuesday called for peace after the previous night's disturbances. About 150 protesters marched Monday night after a peaceful gathering at Leimert Park to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman. But a group of young people splintered off and began running through the area, jumping on cars and vandalizing some stores and buildings.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, implored people to honor Martin's memory and respect the wishes of the slain teen’s parents. 

“They have called for this repeatedly, over and over again: Don’t use violence. Don’t use destruction,” Hutchinson said. “We deeply believe in that, and we’re going to respect that.”  

Leaders say they’re organizing community peace monitors along Crenshaw Boulevard Tuesday night to report any illegal activity to police and help prevent disturbances.

RELATED: Protests over Zimmerman acquittal in Trayvon Martin shooting close LA streets, freeways

Eddie Jones, with the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, encouraged people to fight for justice without engaging in bad behavior.

“We don’t want anything torn up,” Jones said. “We want peace, we want communication and we’re working on documentation to get to the powers that be so that we can get change.”  

Jones said he spoke Tuesday with LAPD Chief Beck to tell him about the monitoring effort, which is not connected with police enforcement plans.    

Beck said about 150 people Monday night separated from the peaceful protest honoring Martin.  He said some of the group vandalized property and assaulted a few people. Fourteen people were arrested

Community leaders praised how the LAPD handled Monday night’s disturbances.

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