Los Angeles is a little more than 2,500 miles from Sanford, Florida – the city that has played host to the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. But if the recent string of protests and public gatherings throughout the nation are any indication that ideas and beliefs hold no boundaries, then it is clear that congested LA street are surely packed with opinions.
Shortly after Zimmerman's acquittal was announced this past Saturday, a number of protests began sprouting up throughout the Southland – most of them peaceful. On Monday, however, things began to take a different turn. According to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, a group of approximately 150 people broke off from larger, peaceful protests and began walking through the streets. This time, though, the protest was marked by violence and vandalism.
In a news conference late on Monday evening, recently elected Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the vandalism, thefts, and assaults during the protests resulted in 13 arrests. Although little information was given about the severity of the assaults or any injuries they might have produced, Mayor Garcetti and Chief Beck went on to say the more than 300 LAPD officers were called to the scene in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
This particular group of small protesters reportedly blocked traffic on Crenshaw Boulevard. Several people were seen jumping on cars, breaking windows, and at one point raiding a local Wal-Mart Store. In Los Angeles and in cities throughout the country, these scenes weren't exactly unusual. When all is said and done, there are sure to be a considerable number of arrests resulting from this event.
To avoid the profound and sensitive issues at stake in the Zimmerman case and verdict, it is perhaps as equally interesting to look at the ways in which people are responding to the Sanford jury's not guilty verdict. Although no serious injuries have yet been reported, a few of these scenes call up eerie reminders to the Los Angeles riots that took place more than two decades ago. Those disturbances, too, were sparked by a socially and racially loaded case in which white police officers were acquitted after the brutal beating of Rodney King.
Although there is a great deal at work here, the fact remains that Los Angeles officials are urging local residents to remain peaceful. Freedom of speech and the right to assemble, protest, and petition are available to all under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The right to commit crime, however, is not. While such events may be inevitable and may be understandable in the heat of the moment, it is certain that those who are accused of vandalism, theft, or assault may be subjected to criminal consequences. There is also no doubt that amid a little chaos, law enforcement officers too may be prone to rushed acts of judgment, cases of mistaken identity, and unlawful arrests.
Depending on the circumstances, crimes such as vandalism, theft, and assault can be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies and can carry punishment that includes considerable fines, possible terms of imprisonment, probation, and the numerous repercussions that come with having a criminal conviction on one's record. If you or your loved one is facing any of these types of allegations, bear in mind that proven legal representation is essential to protecting your legal rights and to ensuring that you have a strong defense. To learn more about these charges, or to discuss your case, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney from Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP today.