Ferguson-Fueled Protests Continue Wednesday Night In San Diego
UPDATE: 9:15 P.M.
Marchers were headed back to City Heights after making a loop around midtown neighborhoods to protest the events in Ferguson.
Earlier in the evening, police closed the onramps to I-805 off El Cajon Boulevard to prevent protesters from blocking the highway.
All on ramps were reopened by 9 p.m.
UPDATE: 8:00 P.M.
A march held to protest the recent events in Ferguson, Mo. has swelled to around 150 people, but thus far remained peaceful. San Diego police officers redirected traffic as the march moved from City Heights to North Park.
Bystanders cheered the protesters as they marched along University Avenue.
Around 8 p.m., protesters were headed north on 30th Street.
UPDATE: 6:50 P.M.
Around 100 San Diegans marched down University Avenue in City Heights to protest the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the lack of charges against the police officer who shot him. Before the marchers set out, organizers reminded them to be peaceful.
San Diego police officers were on the scene but keeping their distance. Officers were, however, blocking the onramp to state Route 15. Protesters twice blocked that freeway Tuesday night.
After peaceful protests that began Tuesday night in San Diego turned hostile — even violent at times — law enforcement is on high alert as more demonstrations are planned for Wednesday.
Hundreds were drawn to City Heights and downtown San Diego to oppose a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer for shooting and killing a black unarmed teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Overnight, demonstrators twice shut down state Route 15 near University Avenue. Then, early Wednesday morning, student protesters in La Jolla blocked traffic on Interstate 5.
In anticipation of more unrest Wednesday, law enforcement officers are monitoring freeway entrances, exits and overpasses.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said Tuesday night six people were arrested, which included charges of unlawful assembly and assault on an officer.
“We want everybody to know that we respect everyone’s First Amendment right but once you start to go into unlawful activity, we are not going to tolerate that and we will take swift and immediate action,” Zimmerman told KPBS Wednesday.
Zimmerman said officers were pelted with rocks and plastic bottles and a California Highway Patrol officer was spit on, but no injuries were reported. One man was arrested in connection with rock throwing, she said.
In City Heights, officers followed protesters and directed street traffic around them Tuesday evening as they marched from the Weingart Library and Performance Annex and circled around the department’s Mid-City headquarters. Members of the crowd carried signs, blew whistles and chanted, "Hands up, don't shoot!" while marching.
Zimmerman said some people were hostile toward officers, but others were respectful.
“The majority of them were very cooperative with us, but it ran the entire gamut from protesters that were very much grateful that we were there, thanking us that we were there and helping to facilitate their First Amendment right,” she said. “But it also ran the other gamut, with protesters that were throwing rock sand bottles and spitting on our officers and circling our vehicles, and were very hostile toward our officers."
Demonstrators continued toward Fairmount Avenue near Wightman Street and briefly made their way onto the northbound lanes of state Route 15 at University Avenue where they blocked freeway traffic.
The CHP closed the freeway at that location around 8:15 p.m. because of the demonstration but reopened the lanes about half an hour later. Demonstrators blocked traffic again on Route 15 around 10 p.m. near El Cajon Boulevard before police quickly cleared the freeway, U-T San Diego said. A U.S. flag also was set afire.
Zimmerman said officers made announcements in English and Spanish ordering demonstrators to move off the freeway. One man who called on the crowd to ignore the officers’ requests was arrested, and four others were charged with unlawful assembly, she said.
After midnight, about 75 protesters marched from City Heights to downtown San Diego to the Hall of Justice on Broadway and held a rally before leaving around 1 a.m., according to the U-T.
Across town in La Jolla a few hours later, several dozen UCSD students lined up across Interstate 5 near Nobel Drive around 6:50 a.m., according to the CHP.
Protesters, led by an unidentified man with a bullhorn, held signs objecting to a Missouri grand jury's decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed but allegedly came at the officer and, at one point, tried to take his service weapon.
Before authorities arrived on the freeway, several stranded motorists exited their vehicles and yelled at the protesters to move. At least one frustrated motorist got into a brief physical confrontation with the man holding the bullhorn.
No arrests were made in that incident, but San Diego police continued to monitor the protesters' movements as they marched on city streets.
Another demonstration in City Heights is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday As of late Wednesday morning, least 700 people said they are attending, according to the United Against Police Terror - San Diego Facebook page.
The protest is in honor of Brown and for "all stolen lives by law enforcement," a post on the event page said.