Store owners on Monday began to board up broken windows and clean up tagging in downtown Oakland after a small group of protesters got violent this weekend in the wake of George Zimmerman's "not guilty" verdict in Florida. Christie Smith reports.
Anti-racism activist groups, and other groups including Occupy Oakland, held sometimes violent protests on both sides of the Bay Area throughout the weekend, in response to the "not guilty" verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
In Oakland, hundreds of demonstrators marched through downtown on Saturday and Sunday nights, blocking streets, burning American flags, vandalizing a police car and smashing windows. The protests were mostly mild on Sunday, as owners cleaned up storefronts, including the Sears, Oakland Tribune building and some banks, that were damaged the night before. But police said a small group of demonstrators turned to vandalism along Broadway about 10 p.m. Sunday. Small fires were set after midnight, police said.
As of Monday morning, Oakland police said they made only one arrest.
In San Jose, a smaller gathering of about 50 people voiced their disapproval of the of the verdict outside City Hall on Sunday evening.
The protests came in the wake of a jury in Florida on Saturday evening acquitting Zimmerman of all charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin after 16 hours of testimony. Zimmerman, 29, shot Martin, 17, on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Florida. His defense team had successfully argued that the shooting was in self-defense.
Though the most vocal showings since the verdict was read have been in support of Martin, others have used social media to stand up for Zimmerman following his acquittal. Facebook pages proclaiming support for him have thousands of “likes.”
On the NBC Nightly News Facebook page, one supporter reacted to the verdict, writing, “The justice system works. Zimmerman should never have been arrested.”
The shooting and trial has sparked a national debate as well over racism as Martin was African American. President Obama called for calm in the wake of the verdict, realizing that “passions” may be running high. “But we are a nation of laws,” he said in a statement, “and a jury has spoken.”
The protests in the Bay Area mirrored others across the country. In Los Angeles on Sunday night, protesters shut down the 10 Freeway for about 30 minutes just after 6 p.m. At one point, the LAPD said its officers shot rubber bullets into the crowd in an attempt to get them to disperse. In San Francisco mostly peaceful protesters marched from Market and Powell to Union Square to Justin Herman Plaza for a rally.
In the Bay Area, the tensest moments stemmed from Oakland, where protesters set fires and vandalized buildings, police said. The Sears store on Telegraph suffered the most damage with multiple shattered windows. The Alameda County courthouse was also tagged and had a few windows smashed. One person Tweeted a photo of a police car that had been vandalized.
Oakland police officer Cynthia Espinoza said a group of masked protesters were seen running down Telegraph Avenue and Broadway throwing objects at several windows, smashing them in the process.
Protesters were also seen tagging buildings and windows with the letters "FTP" or the phrase "Kill Cops." Marchers held banners that read "We are all Trayvon Martin." Police in riot gear surrounded the protesters about 30 minutes later. The protest didn't end there, as marchers continued to march on the streets past midnight.
Over the weekend, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said her prayers were with Martin’s loved ones and that she recognized the case had raised "powerful, incredibly difficult issues that affect us all," including racial profiling.
"Oakland is a community that grapples with many of these issues," Quan said. "I know many of us are living with hard emotions as we continue working toward solutions in the wake of the verdict."
But she called out the protesters saying the vandals "dishonored the memory of Trayvon.'' She said her city won't tolerate violence.
Below is raw video of the protest taken by a helicopter around 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
To read President Obama's full statement:
The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.