Protest Held in Westwood After Skirmish in Downtown L.A.

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WESTWOOD (CNS) - Several hundred people showed up at the Federal Building in Westwood Sunday for another demonstration in solidarity with the two-month-long protest movement in Portland, Oregon, one day after violence broke out between police and protesters at similar demonstrations downtown.

Sunday's demonstration remained mostly peaceful as of 3:30 p.m., although a small group of counter-protesters arrived, with some verbal sparring between the groups.

The Daily Bruin tweeted a video showing one counter-protester in the midst of the group being shouted at by demonstrators for not wearing a face covering.

At least three people suffered minor injuries in Saturday's melees and were taken to hospitals for treatment, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department's Margaret Stewart. Protesters smashed windows and spray-painted slogans at the Metropolitan Detention Center on North Alameda Street and threw objects at officers.

In all, four officers and three demonstrators were treated for minor injuries, the Los Angeles Police Department reported.

Police said that four people were arrested, three on suspicion of battery on a police officer and one -- who allegedly was in possession of a machete -- for causing a disturbance.

Two separate demonstrations began in front of Los Angeles City Hall around 4 p.m. Saturday, one organized by the group Refuse Fascism as part of an ongoing series of demonstrations against the administration of President Donald Trump, the other by the Youth Liberation Front.

The YLF protest was part of a daylong action in more than 30 cities to support protesters in Portland, who have demonstrated daily since May 29 against police brutality and systemic racism, and have been in a standoff with federal troops since early July.

All Los Angeles Police Department officers remained on duty past the end of their shifts as part of a citywide tactical alert, and many were sent to the downtown protest.

After leaving Los Angeles City Hall around 5:30 p.m., the crowd marched to LAPD headquarters at First and Main streets. There they shouted at the two front desk officers, while someone spray-painted red Xs on exterior display cases containing LAPD badges.

Protesters continued northeast, holding homemade signs fashioned out of items such as boogie boards and Amazon packaging, with phrases such as “SAY THEIR NAMES,'' “BLACK LIVES ARE LOVED'' and “COPS ARE BAD MMKAY.''

There were also Trump/Pence “OUT NOW!'' rectangles held aloft, distributed by Several protesters carried black flags, some with nothing on them, and at least one with the anarchist letter “A.''

Up until the group reached the Metropolitan Detention Center, the protest had remained largely peaceful.

But it was at the federal prison that some demonstrators ramped things up a notch, smashing three window panes -- one kicked in, another smashed with a skateboard and the letters “FTP,'' a profane anti-police slogan, written across adjacent windows along with a part of the facility's emblem blacked out with spray- paint.

Nick Hanna of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California posted images of shattered glass and graffiti at a federal building on social media.

“When you bring hammers and bats, you're a rioter, not a protester. We will work with our federal, state and local partners to identify and bring federal criminal charges against those who destroy federal property or assault federal officers,'' Hanna tweeted on Sunday.

Down on the street, one protester held a sign that read “FEDS GO HOME'' in purple lettering, pointing to the significance of targeting a federal building, in the wake of the Trump administration's expansion of a crackdown on protests from Portland to Chicago. Trump has threatened to dispatch federal law enforcement to additional cities, but there was no evidence of such a response during the protests in Los Angeles.

Security personnel at the entryway surveyed the damage but didn't seek to push back against protesters, nor were any LAPD officers present. Demonstrators headed toward the Hollywood (101) Freeway a few minutes after arriving.

It was at the off-ramp at Vignes Street that LAPD responded, with the assistance of California Highway Patrol officers, as the first police helicopter appeared overhead.

Lt. John Cook, of the LAPD's Northeast Division estimated the crowd size at 150 people.

“Very loud,'' Cook said of the demonstration. “Very vibrant – but peaceful. And we don't -- the LAPD -- we don't deny a person to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest. We just ensure it's done in a peaceful manner.''

The crowd passed under the freeway and then walked along northbound 101, blocking all lanes, before exiting on two separate off-ramps and heading on multiple city streets toward the United States District Court at 350 W. First St.

After protesters began hurling rocks and water bottles at the front doors, a handful of LAPD officers arrived from the northern corner of the building, bounding down the steps directly into projectiles that included multiple items filled with water and at least one with an orange liquid.

More officers arrived and several officers appeared to aim nonlethal firearms directly at protesters, in some cases at close range, rather than at the ground in front of them, as per department regulations.

Video of the confrontation appeared to show one officer firing a nonlethal round directly into the crowd, which had already been pushed back to the sidewalk.

About a minute and a half later, as police struggled to detain at least three people, another officer fired a nonlethal round directly northwest into the crowd in the middle of First Street.

Officer Mike Lopez of the LAPD's Media Relations Section told City News Service on Sunday that the department was putting together a news release in response to allegations of several officers aiming non-lethal firearms at protesters. That response was expected either later Sunday or Monday, Lopez said.

One female protester, who was on the ground, grabbed an officer's nonlethal firearm as the male officer sought to detain her.

Another officer shoved a protester multiple times who was holding up a bike for protection.

Sgt. Luis Contreras said the firing of nonlethal rounds was the normal response to a situation like this.

“We got hit by rocks and bottles and screwdrivers, and they busted that glass -- that's why,'' he said. “We tried not to. We weren't going to, but it just got too dangerous.''

He walked by red graffiti that said “BACON GETS FRIED,'' with the last word underlined, before entering the court building and speaking with U.S. Marshals, who had assisted in protecting the building.

One feisty female detainee with blood on her face pretended she was about to spit on the officers, who she said had threatened to take her to jail if she did.

“They assaulted my wife,'' said Robert McQueen, of Los Angeles, another detainee, as paramedics assessed him. “I defended her. They assaulted me for defending her.''

His wife, Roxanne McQueen, lay splayed on the sidewalk. Three Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics tended to the nurse as her husband was led away into an ambulance.

Protesters continued to march this way and that, toward another federal building to the northeast and back to City Hall, as Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and LAPD officials formed various lines in strategic positions.

An LAPD officer stationed outside the force's downtown headquarters said police believe there were members of the anti-fascist group Antifa in the crowd.

Police had mostly dispersed by 11 p.m.

“The Los Angeles Police Department is committed to making certain that Angelenos can exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully,'' said LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore. “And we cannot allow violence and destruction of property to put anyone's safety at risk -- whether they be officers, demonstrators or bystanders.''

Protests across the United States have turned violent in recent days. Authorities declared a riot early Sunday in Portland, as protesters breached a fence surrounding the city's federal courthouse building where U.S. agents have been stationed.

An armed protester was fatally shot in Austin, Texas Saturday night. Initial reports indicated the victim was carrying a rifle and approached the suspect's vehicle before the driver fatally shot him from inside the car. The suspect was taken into custody and was said to be cooperating with authorities.

Photos: Getty Images

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