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Baltimore Police Investigate Whether Zimmerman Verdict Prompted Attack

Lisa Archer, 24, of Atlanta, center, chants as protestors march, Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Atlanta the day after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.  From New York to California, outrage over the acquittal in George Zimmerman's murder trial poured from street demonstrations and church pulpits. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Lisa Archer, 24, of Atlanta, center, chants as protestors march, Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Atlanta the day after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. From New York to California, outrage over the acquittal in George Zimmerman's murder trial poured from street demonstrations and church pulpits. (AP Photo/David Goldman)  (AP2013)

Baltimore police say they are investigating reports that an attack on a Hispanic male on Sunday was triggered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Police said they responded to a call about an attack on a man by a group of young people.

They spoke to the victim and to a witness, police said to Fox News Latino. 

The Baltimore Sun identified the witness as Christina Dudley, a real estate agent, and quoted her as saying in an interview that a group of black males and females chased the man, beating him with what appeared a gun and kicked and stomped upon him.

Dudley is then quoted as saying that she heard the youths say several times: “This is for Trayvon.”

Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said that neither the victim nor the witness made any mention of a Trayvon chant.

“We’ve begun an investigation into that,” Kowalczyk said.

Like elsewhere in the nation, groups in Baltimore –a diverse city of about 620,000, including a growing population of Latinos– have urged residents to show their outrage over the verdict acquitting Zimmerman, but in a peaceful way.

African American leaders say they want those who are bewildered over the verdict to feel support for their frustration, and to have an outlet through which to express it.

The People's Power Assembly and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore held a protest Sunday at McKeldin Square. WBAL-TV reported about 100 demonstrators turned out. Some held signs reading "Justice for All."

Another protest took place Monday, and yet another is scheduled for Tuesday night.

“In spite of the brokenness of the criminal justice system, we understand their anger and frustration,” said Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore. “We want them to know they have a right to be angry, and we want to make sure it’s focused and concentrated.”

Witherspoon said there is a lack of confidence in police among many minorities in the city, and for that reason, he added, he felt skeptical about the reports about the Sunday attack.

“I’m hoping the police department is not trying to fan the flames,” Witherspoon said.

That said, however, he added, “We pray for the victim, and we pray for the young people involved that they make amends for their actions.”

Efforts to reach Dudley for comment via telephone and email were unsuccessful.

Baltimore last year made national headlines when its mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, rolled out a welcome mat for Latinos and immigrants, urging them to make the city their home. 

Immigrants, most of them Latinos, doubled their numbers from 11,000 in 2000 to 26,000 in 2010.

Baltimore has hardly been without its share of racial and ethnic tensions. Many immigrants, including Latinos, talk of being put down by others because of their ethnicity. In the summer of 2010, five Honduran men were attacked, two of them fatally.

In at least one of the killings, the perpetrator, an African-American, called the victim “a dirty Mexican,” according to published reports.

Witherspoon said that many diverse groups in the city have come together for the protests about the Zimmerman verdict.

“The verdict was an injustice to Trayvons of all colors,” he said. “Trayvon represents the young man on the street who lacks opportunity, the men who can’t find jobs for a variety of different reasons, people who are shut out, ostracized by society, and victims of police brutality.”

One Baltimore protest organizer, Steven Ceci, said the justice system is riddled with racism and class bias. He said the federal government should file civil rights charges.

Baltimore police are calling for peace. The department plans to have extra officers on patrol this week.

Baltimore's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said the verdict is a miscarriage of justice.

Baltimore police say they are viewing the Sunday incident as isolated for now.

“We’ve had peaceful assemblies, we understand people are going to be frustrated,” Kowalczyk said. “We support the right of assembly, but any kind of violence won’t be tolerated.”

In Los Angeles police announced plans to be out in much greater force to prevent any more violence spiraling out of protests over the acquittal of Zimmerman.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told the city Police Commission Tuesday that the department has tried to be accommodating to free expression but a firm line will be drawn and any kind of criminal activity will not be tolerated.

About 150 people split off from a demonstration Monday night and ran through streets, committing vandalism, assaults and stopping traffic.

Fourteen people were arrested.

The police chief and Mayor Eric Garcetti say the trouble has been caused by a relatively small number of people who are exploiting an opportunity.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.