LOS ANGELES - Protesters returned to the streets of downtown Los Angeles today to demonstrate against the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn federal abortion protections, one day after some minor violence broke out between police and demonstrators.
Two large demonstrations were set in downtown LA, one beginning at 10 a.m. in Grand Park that drew at least a couple hundred people before noon, and another at 1 p.m. outside the federal courthouse on First Street.
Police told the public to expect severe traffic congestion downtown and several street closures around the Civic Center area.
Another rally was expected at the Federal Building in Westwood.
At 3:42 p.m. Saturday, the Los Angeles Police Department tweeted: "Pedestrian demonstrators have now entered the 101 freeway off-ramp from Broadway Avenue. Avoid the area and use alternate routes if possible."
At 3:59 p.m., the LAPD tweeted that "The 101 freeway off ramp has been cleared. Pedestrians demonstrators are now westbound 1st street from Main Street." The LAPD advised motorists to avoid the area and use alternate routes if possible.
On Friday, hundreds of protesters gathered downtown in the hours after the Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, but some skirmishes with Los Angeles police officers were reported, prompting the department to declare an unlawful assembly and issue a temporary citywide tactical alert to clear the streets.
Some in the crowd climbed onto the northbound side of the Harbor (110) Freeway at Fifth Street at around 7 p.m. A different group of protesters clashed with a line of LAPD officers who tried to block them from advancing down an on-ramp, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In video provided to The Times, dozens of protesters chanted at Eighth and Olive streets as police in riot gear pushed through the intersection. A firework was launched into the crowd, and some people scattered.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said some protesters began pelting officers with fireworks at Fifth and Main streets and at least one person was arrested. A dispersal order was issued in the area of Fourth and Main streets at around 9:30 p.m. Main Street between Third and Fifth streets in downtown Los Angeles was closed nearly an hour.
Some on social media characterized the police response as "heavy handed." A reporter with L.A. Taco, a platform that covers food and culture, tweeted that he was assaulted by a group of officers.
"LAPD officers shoved me and jabbed @joeyneverjoe in the stomach with a baton, sending him to the ground. We both identified ourselves as press repeatedly," tweeted Lexis-Oliver Ray.
On a video, officers in riot gear can be heard shouting "leave the area, go back" and Ray describing himself as a member of the press.
Spokeswoman Norma Eisenman of the LAPD's Media Relations Division told City News Service on Saturday that the department had no comment on Ray's tweets. She added that no media staging area was set up for the demonstrations.
Moore acknowledged the protests were not violent but said some people sought to make his officers' job harder.
"I'm grateful today's events were largely peaceful," the chief said. "A much smaller group of individuals took to the streets with the intention of creating chaos and destruction. Unfortunately some chose to enter the freeway, posing a serious risk. Later, a much smaller group fired pyrotechnics at officers.
"Our people strived to facilitate demonstrations while defending our people from dangerous assaults."
Moore said the department is continuing to assess any injuries or damage resulting from the demonstrations.
The union that represents LAPD officers blasted the actions of some demonstrators and what they perceived as the silence of city leadership.
"As a society, it should be easy to condemn attacking police officers with improvised blowtorches, or throwing fireworks, rocks and bottles at officers under the guise of `protest.' Yet, the silence is deafening from our so-called community's leaders," the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a statement Saturday.
"This type of raw violence on display in Los Angeles and across the nation from dangerous mobs hell-bent on destruction has nothing to do with a woman's right to choose. Rather, it is nothing more than disgusting opportunistic behavior carried out by criminals hiding behind our First Amendment.
"LAPD officers are sick and tired of being violently targeted by criminals using the First Amendment as a shield for them to purposefully attack police officers," the statement continued. "Our officers are sick and tired of the silence and inaction from our elected and Department leaders when they are attacked. Seems some of these `leaders' forgot how to Tweet or they can't seem to find their voice to condemn these attacks on our officers when it does not fit their political narrative, align with their point of view or ruffles feathers.
"Violence is violence and it must be met with a strong response, and order must be restored. We demand the leadership of the LAPD to set aside politics and focus on protecting our officers and law-abiding residents from criminals."
Meanwhile, the LAPD was working to "assess and identify" potential threats made by groups calling for violence following the Supreme Court decision. Moore said Friday the department has been made aware of "extremist groups calling for a `Night of Rage'... directing violence towards reproductive and family advocacy groups, federal courthouses, and faith-based organizations and houses of worship."
The groups — which the LAPD did not identify — called for the violence to begin at 8 p.m. Friday, Moore said. However, authorities had not identified any specific or credible threat against any organization in Los Angeles and no such activity had been reported as of 3:45 p.m. Saturday.