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Zimmerman verdict protests grow violent

Published On: Jul 15 2013 12:25:29 AM CDT
Zimmerman DC protest 3

Michael Kandel/iReport

A man speaks into a bullhorn at a protest in Washington, D.C.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -

What started as a quiet day of protest over the self-defense acquittal of a Florida man who shot a 17-year-old boy became more aggressive today as an estimated 300 to 400 demonstrators marched onto the Freeway and stopped traffic for about an hour, authorities said.

In doing so, they confronted Los Angeles police and California Highway Patrol officers, who fired bean bags at the protesters to force them to disperse, LAPD officials said.

Some demonstrators said in media reports that officers also fired rubber bullets in the effort to clear the crowd.

The freeway closure began about 6 p.m. and ended about 7 p.m.

Soon after, another crowd stopped traffic in both directions for a while on Crenshaw Boulevard, just north of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

In that incident, officers again were able to clear the thoroughfare within minutes as protesters showed little resistance, according to broadcast reports.

Also, in the mid-city area, demonstrators impeded traffic in the vicinity of Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue by weaving their way through vehicles, but kept moving.

LAPD officers have been placed on a citywide tactical alert, which means officers can be required to stay on the job after their regular shifts and are not required to respond to low-priority calls.

There has been at least one arrest, police said.

The Los Angeles Coalition for Community Control Over the Police and Occupy L.A. held a peaceful demonstration at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards earlier in the day.

Protesters, many carrying signs, gathered at the area about 4 p.m. 

Following a variety of speeches in the presence of a crowd that included a contingent of Los Angeles police officers, a march ensued north and south on Crenshaw.

The march also was supported by the Justice4Trayvon and HoodiesUp efforts.

Other demonstrators peacefully gathered in the Leimert Park area near Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue.

A six-woman jury found 29-year-old George Zimmerman not guilty Saturday in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a Sanford, Fla., gated community.

 Jurors deliberated for about 16 hours before rendering the verdict, which touched off protests inside and outside the U.S.

Zimmerman, who was a neighborhood watch captain, was charged with second-degree murder for the Feb. 26, 2012, slaying of Martin.

Zimmerman's attorneys successfully argued that their client shot Martin in self-defense, fearing for his life amid a fierce fight between the two that developed after Zimmerman began following Martin as the teenager walked through the housing development after a trip to a nearby convenience store.

The case fueled a national debate about race, guns and Florida's ``stand-your-ground'' law that broadens the definition of self-defense and the legal scope of the use of firearms in exercising it.