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Garcetti cuts short East Coast trip after Zimmerman protests

Mayor Eric Garcetti returns early to L.A. after protests over George Zimmerman acquittal in killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

July 15, 2013|By Michael Finnegan
  • L.A. City Mayor Eric Garcetti arriving in Leimert Park with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck for a press conference.
L.A. City Mayor Eric Garcetti arriving in Leimert Park with Los Angeles… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday cut short a weeklong trip to the East Coast in what a spokesman called "an abundance of caution" over civic unrest in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

After less than two weeks in office, Garcetti left Los Angeles for Pittsburgh on Saturday for a family visit with friends over the weekend, to be followed by meetings later this week in Washington with members of Congress and Obama administration officials.

The mayor was in the air on his way to Pittsburgh when the Zimmerman verdict was announced, Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said.

The timing of Garcetti's weekend holiday nearly 2,500 miles from Los Angeles proved awkward: Los Angeles street protests over Zimmerman's acquittal in the racially charged case started Sunday and lasted into Monday morning. At least eight people were arrested. It was the first event on Garcetti's watch as mayor to test his leadership skills.

Police called off a citywide tactical alert Monday morning. But Garcetti decided to fly back "out of an abundance of caution in case post-verdict events were to intensify," Robb said.

As the protests unfolded Sunday, Garcetti quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Twitter, telling his followers: "Nonviolence is a powerful & just weapon ... It is a sword that heals-MLK." He urged those upset over the acquittal to "exercise 1st Amendment and practice peace in City of Angels tonight."

The mayor was briefed by Police Chief Charlie Beck "and was in constant contact with his staff over the weekend," Robb said.

Robb declined to identify the friends with whom Garcetti, his wife, Amy Wakeland, and their baby daughter spent Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Garcetti had been planning to stay in Maryland on Monday and Tuesday for meetings with Dmitri Mehlhorn, a Garcetti transition advisor helping the mayor fill the jobs of technology chief and deputy mayor for economic development. Mehlhorn, chief operating officer of Bloomberg Law, a legal research system, is former chief operating officer of StudentsFirst, an education reform group.

Depending on how events unfold over the next day or two in Los Angeles, Garcetti might still return to Washington for meetings Wednesday through Friday. He was scheduled to see Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx, senior White House officials David Agnew and Cecilia Munoz, and the California congressional delegation.

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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