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Downtown L.A. clears after confrontation breaks out at ArtWalk

July 13, 2012 | 12:00 am

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Crowds began to disperse in downtown Los Angeles about 11 p.m. Thursday, about two hours after Occupy L.A. protesters clashed with police during the monthly L.A. ArtWalk, resulting in a citywide tactical alert and several arrests.

At least two officers suffered minor injuries, police sources said. As of 11:40 p.m., 12 people had been booked on vandalism charges and two others were in custody on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

The melee appeared to have stemmed from a sidewalk chalk drawing demonstration, witnesses said.

PHOTOS: Confrontation at downtown L.A. ArtWalk

A woman who identified herself as part of Occupy L.A. said protesters attended the monthly L.A. ArtWalk on Thursday night with the intention of showing support for people previously arrested for chalking on the sidewalk. A Facebook event advertised the planned demonstration, apparently named "Chalk Walk."

Some of the messages written at the intersection of Spring and 5th streets included, "May the youth rise" and "End the Fed."

"We were handing out free chalk for freedom of speech," said Cheryl Aichele, 34, a member of Occupy L.A.

The event grew rowdy as people began drinking in the streets and breaking glass bottles, witnesses said. Police arrived at the intersection shortly before 10 p.m. to move protesters blocking the street.

Protesters allied with the Occupy movement began chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets!" and yelling expletives about police. Drawings of pigs with the words "kill cops" were written on the ground.

At one point, an unidentified man tossed a glass bottle over his shoulder that landed in front of a line of LAPD officers gathered on Spring Street between 4th and 5th streets.

As the police line moved north on Spring Street, a man was shot with what appeared to be a non-lethal weapon, witnesses said.

LAPD Capt. Gina Sanders said the incident began at Spring and 5th streets when people threw objects at officers. That action initiated a "mega response," she said.

Hundreds of officers in riot gear systematically moved the crowd away block by block as people gathered in the windows of nearby apartments and bars to watch and snap cellphone pictures.

"I came down for ArtWalk and it turned into this," said 25-year-old Susan Enciso.


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Photo: Scene in downtown as police direct the crowd. L.A. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/ L.A. Times