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KING CASE AFTERMATH: A CITY IN CRISIS : Students Clash With Police in Atlanta : Unrest: Violence continues for second day. Jittery businesses in New York and elsewhere send workers home.

May 02, 1992|DAVID TREADWELL and EDITH STANLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

ATLANTA — Violence erupted Friday for the second straight day in the wake of the Rodney G. King verdicts as students from predominantly black Atlanta University hurled rocks and bottles at police and set patrol cars afire.

At least 22 people were taken to hospitals after the incident. Officers, using tear gas, stopped the students from marching from the campus to downtown Atlanta. Police said 70 people were arrested.

Scattered protests about the King verdict took place elsewhere around the nation, and rumors of trouble sent thousands of workers home early in New York, Miami and Hartford, Conn.

In the Atlanta fracas, at least 17 police officers were injured by flying objects. Several students reported to nearby hospitals to be treated after inhaling the tear gas.

"It was a peaceful protest," said Andrea Henderson, an Atlanta University student and resident of a freshman dormitory. "The police came on campus and tried to disperse us. I don't think they had the right to do that."

But Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell said that two previous marches by Atlanta University students the day before had erupted in violence. "What I'd like for them to do is to leave the streets and go in (to the campus) and hold whatever orderly demonstration they would like to hold."

Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson said authorities were taking a "deliberate and firm stance" after a day of rioting downtown Thursday in which windows were smashed and white reporters, photographers and passersby were beaten.

Downtown remained relatively calm Friday, and commuters returned to their offices. State police in riot gear ringed the state Capitol, and National Guard helicopters flew over the central business district. Jackson extended his 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, but the Braves-Mets baseball game was played.

In New York, rumors of disturbances spread through the city in the early afternoon as about 400 teen-agers marched through Brooklyn, smashing some windows and assaulting a street vendor. A pedestrian mall in downtown Brooklyn closed in response.

Fearing the worst, hundreds of businesses in Manhattan also shut down and let their workers off early. Subway stations were clogged and people waiting for buses formed lines that stretched for blocks.

Police tracked groups of protesters numbering in the hundreds who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall. Another group marched to City Hall from Times Square. No major incidents were reported.

But by this time, rumors were rife that windows had been broken at Macy's, that the A&S department store had been set afire and that violence had forced the closing of the Port Authority bus terminal, a major commuter depot near Times Square.

On 14th Street, a major lower Manhattan thoroughfare that ordinarily caters to a bustling Friday trade, one storekeeper after another lowered iron shutters in a frightened urban domino effect until barely a window display was visible between 5th and 6th avenues.

Ironically, even as office gossips were reporting sporadic violence and looting, their office radios were reporting that the rumors were groundless.

"A lot of misinformation is circulating throughout the city," said Police Lt. Robert Nardoza. "There's talk of riots. Any talk of riots is just not true."

A rally planned by demonstrators for late afternoon in Times Square scared many businesses in that area into shutting down early. The demonstration drew an estimated 500 people and broke up without incident. But later, as the protesters marched south toward Greenwich Village, they smashed some store windows and got into scuffles with police that left three officers injured.

Violence flared up in two incidents in Harlem, both involving white men who were driving trucks through the black neighborhood. One man was stabbed in the back and the other was left with cuts and bruises.

New York police said 98 people had been arrested, mostly for disorderly conduct.

In Miami, which has experienced more race riots in recent years than any other U.S. city, about 30 to 40 students from North Miami Beach High School marched through a north side shopping mall about noon to protest the King verdict. There was no violence, but mall officials shut down the shopping center as a precaution.

Rumors and fear made a virtual ghost town of Hartford by 3 p.m., as employees went home early and merchants locked up their shops. Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry addressed about 100 blacks at an evening rally.

Elsewhere, Seattle was cleaning up after more than 200 people, most of them black, stormed through a 25-block area of downtown after midnight Thursday, setting fires, smashing store windows, looting, turning over cars and skirmishing with authorities.

About 40 people were arrested, among them an unspecified number of "plain, ordinary thieves known to police from former arrests," said Police Chief Patrick Fitzsimons. Three people were reported injured.

Tampa, Fla., also remained calm after a night of racial disturbances Thursday.

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