For the second straight day, protests over the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed 18-year-old spilled into Los Angeles streets and temporarily forced the complete closure of a downtown freeway.
Demonstrations had been planned for the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, the campuses of USC and UCLA, and Leimert Park in South L.A.
About 4 p.m., hundreds could be seen walking with signs through South L.A. Protesters shut down multiple intersections along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, before gathering in front of LAPD’s Southwest Division.
They then proceeded north on Figueroa Street and west on Jefferson Boulevard, where just before 6 p.m. they came face to face with a line of police officers near the 110 Freeway overpass.
Protesters appeared to be pushed back and many headed back west on Jefferson, aerial video from Sky5 showed. At one point, protesters briefly surrounded a CHP patrol car, but the vehicle backed away without incident as LAPD officers came to the scene.
Later, marchers briefly took over an intersection at Figueroa and Adams Boulevard, proceeding north up Figueroa again as they made their way to downtown.
Near 22nd Street, several protesters broke through a fence leading to an embankment and the 110 Freeway below. A handful of people mounted the fence but, under the glare of a police helicopter’s spotlight, they appeared to return back to Figueroa, going northbound.
Hundreds of protesters eventually gathered around LAPD headquarters in the area of First and Main streets around 8 p.m., where they faced off with police officers dressed in riot gear who guarded the steps to the building’s entrance.
The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but at one point, protesters threw bottles and possibly other objects at the uniformed officers.
Shortly before 9 p.m., the group appeared to split, with some staying at LAPD headquarters and two other groups moving away from the building in two separate directions. One of the groups was headed up First Street to Broadway, while the other headed down Spring Street to Third Street, the Los Angeles Times reported.
One of the groups eventually entered the 101 Freeway at Grand Avenue around 9 p.m., leading to the brief closure of both sides of the roadway as demonstrators set up barricades they had picked up along the way from LAPD headquarters.
The protesters were removed and both lanes of the freeway were open again less than an hour later.
Multiple arrests were made following the incident on the 101, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Overnight, three people had been taken into custody on suspicion of assaulting an officer, failure to disperse and public intoxication, respectively, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference. It was unclear where they were arrested.
Several demonstrations took place throughout Los Angeles and other cities across the country after St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, would not be charged by the grand jury for fatally shooting Michael Brown, who was black.
Brown’s Aug. 9 death touched off violent protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb of 20,000, as did Monday evening’s announcement about Wilson’s fate.
In L.A. Monday night, some 300 demonstrators walked onto the 110 Freeway near Pico Boulevard (map) and temporarily blocked traffic in both directions. Some yelled, “no justice, no peace, no racist police,” as they lay down on the pavement.
About 100 California Highway Patrol and LAPD officers, wearing riot helmets and carrying batons, dispersed the crowd and used what officials described as less-lethal foam rounds to prevent them from reentering the freeway.
One CHP officer was transported to a hospital after she was hit in the hand by a piece of debris, possibly a rock thrown by a protester, said Highway Patrol Capt. Greg Hammond.
About 2 miles away from that scene, about 100 activists gathered in front of LAPD headquarters at 100 West First Street (map). Some of them got into a shoving match with officers equipped in riot gear after crossing a police barricade. No injuries were reported in the demonstration, which broke up about 2:30 a.m.
Speaking inside the building Tuesday morning, Beck said his department wants “to facilitate lawful protest.”
“We support people’s right to assemble and to lawfully speak out on issues that are of great concern to them,” the police chief said. “However, we cannot support and we will not allow people to use their rights to trample on the rights of others — and that includes such things as vandalism, violence” and the incident on the Harbor Freeway, he said.
Noting the inherent danger of walking onto a freeway, he vowed that anyone who did so would be arrested.