LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti called for peace and cut short an East Coast visit to return to Los Angeles on Monday following police confrontations with protesters angry over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Police shot beanbag rounds and arrested six people while breaking up relatively small demonstrations Sunday and before dawn Monday.
No injuries were reported to either demonstrators or officers but Garcetti decided to return “out of an abundance of caution.”
“He encourages people to exercise their First Amendment rights but does believe in keeping the peace on the streets of Los Angeles and believes non-violence is a very potent tool,” mayoral spokesman Yusef Robb said.
Garcetti doesn’t want the message to be “overshadowed by violence,” Robb said.
The new mayor was supposed to visit Maryland on Monday and then move on to Washington, D.C., later in the week to meet with the transportation secretary and California congressional delegation.
It was not immediately clear whether he would be able to resume the trip, Robb said.
Protesters in Los Angeles and Oakland blocked traffic and clashed with police Sunday in protests over a Florida jury’s acquittal of neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager.
However, most demonstrations around the state were peaceful.
Members of California’s congressional delegation weighed in on the controversy.
Democratic Rep. Karen Bass called the verdict outrageous but urged demonstrators to remain peaceful.
“Violence does nothing to help Trayvon and the Martin family get the justice they deserve and only distracts from the thousands of Americans who have signed petitions urging that the Justice Department pursue federal charges,” Bass said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer sent a letter Monday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder supporting the Justice Department decision to review the case to determine whether Martin’s civil rights were violated.
“I respect the fact that the jury has spoken … but I don’t think this should be the last word,” Boxer wrote in the letter.
“Trayvon Martin’s death was a tragedy and has raised many sensitive and important issues,” she wrote. “We should explore every avenue in an effort to ensure that something like this never happens again.”
In Los Angeles on Sunday, several hundred protesters demonstrated in the Mid-City area and some marched onto Interstate 10 in Los Angeles and blocked traffic for close to a half-hour before police moved them away.
That night, a smaller group of demonstrators entered the lobby of the W luxury hotel in Hollywood and then trooped to Sunset Boulevard to chant “no justice, no peace” in front of the CNN building, authorities said.
Dozens of police in helmets and face shields declared an unlawful assembly after midnight Monday and moved in. Some non-lethal beanbag ammunition was fired during that confrontation, Officer Gregory Baek said.
In Oakland, police confronted members of a crowd who began breaking windows and spray-painting graffiti at a downtown intersection Sunday night, the Oakland Tribune reported.
Protesters marched about five miles before sitting at a major intersection and blocking traffic.
The Tribune said the crowd was largely peaceful, but by 10 p.m. a smaller group of protesters began vandalizing businesses.
KGO-TV reported that rocks and bottles were thrown toward police.
It was not immediately clear whether any arrests were made.
Earlier Sunday, police closed San Francisco’s Market Street and escorted about 400 people as they marched across downtown to the waterfront Ferry Building.
The racially diverse crowd of protesters banged drums, blew whistles and held signs that declared “Zimmerman: the people say guilty,” and “The whole system is racist.”
Rand Powdrill, 41, of San Leandro, said he came to “protest the execution of an innocent black teenager.”
“If our voices can’t be heard, then this is just going to keep going on,” he said.