LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Despite concerns about protests or possible attempts to disrupt voting, Election Day wound up being largely uneventful, but Southland law enforcement agencies remained on high alert today as uncertainty loomed over the divisive presidential race.
With the nation deciding one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent memory, local police agencies beefed up patrols and maintained a heightened state of readiness throughout Tuesday, with many expected to continue those efforts through the week as vote-counting drags on.
“Our personnel are still on 12-hour shirts, those that are working patrol, and will remain that way throughout the week,'' Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday. “And if people want to protest peacefully, we encourage that. And for whatever they're protesting, please make sure it's peaceful and we're there to support that and those efforts.''
For the second day in a row, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a citywide tactical alert Wednesday “to ensure sufficient resources to address any incidents that may arise as a result of Election Day activities.'' The agency again stressed that no specific incident triggered the alert.
A tactical alert means that officers are kept on the job beyond the end of their shifts.
Tuesday's election remained mostly free of violence, but there were some isolated skirmishes.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a group of Donald Trump supporters gathered in a Beverly Hills park. Although police said the gathering was generally peaceful, a large contingent of officers descended on the scene in response to some sort of confrontation shortly after darkness fell. A report from the scene indicated that one person had to be briefly detained, but the circumstances were unclear.
The gathering broke up a short time later, with no reports of arrests or damage.
Things got a little more tense later in the evening in downtown Los Angeles, when a group of protesters gathered outside Staples Center, which was being used a vote center in Tuesday's election.
Fox11 initially reported that the crowd was rallying in opposition to District Attorney Jackie Lacey's reelection bid, and video from the scene showed what appeared to be a group of people being detained while police formed a skirmish line.
The LAPD described the crowd as “large and unruly,'' and police wound up declaring it an unlawful assembly, ordering attendees to disperse. An unknown number of people were detained.
Dozens of people were subsequently seen marching along some downtown streets, first eastbound on Venice Boulevard, then back west on Washington Boulevard.
The group wound up in the vicinity of Los Angeles Trade Technical College, where some people blocked an intersection.
Officers first cited and released about 30 people for blocking the intersection of Grand Avenue and Washington Boulevard and failing to disperse after another unlawful assembly was declared, Officer Mike Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department told reporters at the scene around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Another 40 people made their way onto the Metro A (Blue) Line tracks and were moved off the tracks by officers and arrested, Lopez said.
No other major disruptions were reported, and voting appeared to go on unimpeded across the region.
“It was good that there was very little unrest throughout L.A., I think only one area around the Staples Center there were a few knuckleheads,'' Villanueva said. “But outside of that, it was peaceful by and large. Everyone got a chance to exercise their right to vote, which is very important. Now we have to go through the process of counting across the entire nation.''
There were no immediate reports of any looting, fears of which prompted business owners in some areas of the Southland to board up storefronts and remove merchandise from their shops.
That work was particularly noticeable on Beverly Hills' ritzy Rodeo Drive shopping district, which was closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic on Tuesday and will remain blocked Wednesday.
Beverly Hills Police Chief Dominick Rivetti said last week the agency would be on “full alert throughout the residential and business districts'' all through election week.
Other police agencies put out similar statements or messages of assurance to residents that they will be prepared to respond to any unrest.
“We have prepared an operational plan to ensure the protection and safety of our residents and visitors,'' according to a social media post from the Torrance Police Department. “We've added additional officers to the field, activated our Emergency Operations Center and will work with all city resources and critical infrastructures within Torrance to ensure community safety. Additionally, a mutual aid plan has been established to assist our law enforcement partners in the event of any civil unrest or other disruption.''
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