LAPD declares unlawful assembly after outbursts of violence at George Floyd protest downtown; at least 2 officers hurt

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Police declared an unlawful assembly after clashing with demonstrators who marched on the 110 Freeway and vandalized squad cars Friday on the third night of rallying in downtown Los Angeles over George Floyd’s death.

Hundreds gathered in the streets from evening into the night, with many demonstrating peacefully as police cars controlled their path. Many held signs reading, “I can’t breathe,” a statement uttered by Floyd as he pleaded with the officers kneeling on his body and neck.

Around 6:40 p.m., some protesters began smashing L.A. police vehicles as they marched near the intersection of Fifth and Oliver streets. Officers gave chase, causing the marchers to run.

An officer who pushed one fleeing demonstrator onto a civilian vehicle was quickly swarmed by protesters, who attacked him en masse. The officer eventually escaped their grasp and fled the area.

The burst of violence was quickly subdued, and officers were seen working to detain people.

The L.A. Police Department later said no arrests had been made, but an officer was hospitalized with unspecified injuries. It was unclear whether it was the same officer involved in the scuffle.

A second officer was also hurt, Officer Drake Madison said, but no details were available on the circumstances or officer’s condition.

The order to disperse was issued shortly before 9:30 p.m., with demonstrators told to vacate the area between the 10 Freeway and 101 Freeway, and 110 Freeway and Alameda Street.

“This declaration is being made following repeated acts of violence and property damage,” the department said in a statement. “Residents should stay inside.  Business should close.  Persons on street are to leave area.”

Fireworks were set off as police tried to force people off the streets.

Earlier Friday, LAPD said it would not tolerate violence or property damage during the demonstrations. Officers said they had noticed “an increasing level of violence and property damage committed by small number of detractors.”

Around 7:30 p.m., a group headed onto the 110 Freeway at Eighth Street, blocked the lanes for about 10 minutes before they walked off with hands raised. A smaller group was spotted on the interstate an hour later.

Around 8:45 p.m., police could be seen zip-tying a man’s hands behind his back after an incident at the intersection Seventh and Hope streets. It wasn’t immediately clear what the man was suspected of. An ambulance was seen departing the area.

Shortly before that, a group was seen surrounding a police SUV, kicking it and spray-painting graffiti over its windows.

At one point, police could be seen firing less-lethal ammunition at demonstrators along Spring Street, according to video published by the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier in the week, demonstrators threw projectiles at officers and damaged businesses in the area, according to LAPD. The agency described those incidents as “isolated,” but said they would “take enforcement action” on anyone who acts unlawfully.

“We stand with our communities and rebuke any instance of police brutality as well as acts of violence or property damage,” Chief Michel Moore said in a statement.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to protect Angelenos’ right to protest during a press briefing Friday evening.

“Don’t violate any laws in doing that,” he said. “But we absolutely need — as a nation, certainly as a city — to voice our outrage. It’s our patriotic duty to not only stand up for George Floyd, but for everybody who has been killed unnecessarily, who has been murdered, for the structural racism that we have in our country.”

He also took to social media to support the demonstrators’ cause.

“Angelenos should follow their conscience in response to the pain and senselessness of this horror,” he wrote in a tweet. “I will always believe in expressing ourselves powerfully, peacefully, and safely.”

Protests are allowed under L.A. County’s current coronavirus health order, but participants are still expected to use face coverings and keep their distance as much as possible, said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s top public health official.

“The ability for people to protest in a peaceful way is in fact one of only two event gatherings that are allowed across the state,” she said. “We do ask people to adhere with the guidance.”

On Wednesday, protesters rallied downtown for hours, and the event was largely peaceful outside of a period when a group of 300 marched across the 101 Freeway.

Lanes were shut down as some demonstrators swarmed two California Highway Patrol vehicles, shattering their rear windows. Several people jumped onto the hood of one cruiser, and one man who rolled off the car was hospitalized.

Although LAPD initially said no arrests were made in Wednesday’s event, CHP later said the injured man was in custody at the hospital and would face criminal charges.

On Thursday, the demonstration largely remained outside LAPD’s headquarters, and another group marched from the Santa Monica police headquarters to an LAPD station in Venice.

In Fontana, nine people were arrested Thursday after rocks were thrown at businesses, vehicles and officers as a group of about 100 marched on Sierra Avenue, according to Fontana police. Officials declared the assembly unlawful about three hours after it began, and spent another hour dispersing the crowd.

The unrest has resulted in violence elsewhere — most notably in Minneapolis, but also in Denver, New York, Columbus, Phoenix, Albuquerque and Louisville.

In a video message posted Thursday, Moore called the video of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the handcuffed man pleaded he couldn’t breathe “disturbing.” Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder on Friday, as new video emerged of additional officers kneeling on Floyd during the arrest.

Moore said his own department has also fallen short and that he shares in concerns about excessive force.

“Street demonstrations are and should be occurring across this county, and in this city, to bring voices to the injustices,” he said.

KTLA’s Brian Day contributed to this report.

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