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Protests over Zimmerman acquittal close CA streets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The mayor of Los Angeles is urging demonstrators to “practice peace” after demonstrators protesting about a jury’s decision to clear George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin clashed with police and blocked traffic on a freeway and city streets.

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued the call for peace on Twitter Sunday night after groups of people broke off from a peaceful march and threw rocks and batteries at officers. Officers responded by firing nonlethal beanbag rounds, and arrested one man.

Other groups blocked traffic by walking onto busy Interstate 10, and to a Hollywood intersection where they waved signs bearing the photo of the slain black teen.

Police officials said they were monitoring the protests and waiting for the group to disperse.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A small group of demonstrators clashed with Los Angeles police and others walked onto a freeway Sunday to protest a jury’s decision to clear George Zimmerman in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, authorities said.

Interstate 10 by the Crenshaw Ave. exit was closed for about 30 minutes after a group of protesters walked down a freeway onramp and onto eastbound lanes. Some carried a large poster with a photo of Trayvon Martin, others rode bicycles as traffic came to a standstill.

Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said officers eventually dispersed the crowd and no one was arrested. However, at a nearby street corner a crowd threw rocks and flashlight batteries at officers, prompting them to fire beanbag rounds.

One man was arrested in the clash, Smith said.

Demonstrations across the state were largely peaceful Sunday afternoon as hundreds took to the streets to march in support of the slain 17-year-old, blocking traffic on major streets of San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.

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.

A similar march shut down Crenshaw Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles’ historic black neighborhood. It was peaceful until small groups broke away from the march, Smith said.

In Oakland, protesters marched about five miles before sitting down at a major street intersection and blocking traffic.

The demonstrations came a day after Zimmerman was cleared of all charges in the February 2012 death of the 17-year-old Martin in in Florida. Zimmerman has maintained the shooting was an act of self-defense. The death of an unarmed black teen unleashed debate across the U.S. over racial profiling.

In downtown Oakland Saturday night, people broke windows, vandalized cars and buildings and started small fires in the streets. Local media reports said some Oakland marchers vandalized a police squad car and officers formed a line to block the protesters’ path.

Footage from a television helicopter showed people spray-painting anti-police graffiti. Protesters also burned an American and a California state flag and spray painted Alameda County’s Davidson courthouse, according to the Oakland Tribune ( Police said no one was injured.

In a statement Sunday, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Martin’s death “raised powerful, incredibly difficult issues” surrounding racial profiling, but she criticized vandals who “dishonored the memory of Trayvon by engaging in violent activities that hurt our growing economy and endangered people.”

“We will not tolerate violence in our city,” Quan said.

The Oakland demonstration followed a raucous but largely peaceful rally in San Francisco. Police say officers escorted demonstrators as they marched on the city’s Mission District. The group was dispersed by 10 p.m.

The verdict also sparked protests in Los Angeles, where demonstrators gathered in Leimert Park, the city’s historically black neighborhood. Police were put on tactical alert, but there were no reports of arrests.

Police spokesman Lt. Andrew Neiman said a group of about 100 people surrounded an officer securing an on-ramp to Interstate 10 on Saturday night. The officer, fearing for his safety, asked for help. After more officers arrived, two people threw bottles and police responded with several beanbag rounds, Neiman said. The group dispersed and there were no reports of any injuries.

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