Oakland hopes for quiet after destruc­tive protests

Oakland officials and business owners are hoping for a quiet night after the windows of downtown stores were broken, a restaurant employee was hit in the head with a hammer, and nine people were arrested in a third night of protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Oakland police say Monday night’s protest started around 6 p.m. when about 250 people assembled at Frank Ogawa Plaza and started marching through the downtown area.

The first arrest appeared to take place a little after 7 p.m. when demonstrators marched onto Interstate 880, forcing the temporary closure of the freeway.

As Oakland officers outfitted in riot gear worked to clear demonstrators from the freeway, the rest of the crowd started moving through the downtown area.

Some demonstrators skirmished with police as they marched, while others broke windows, sprayed graffiti on the walls of businesses and set number of small fires in the downtown area.

When Oakland police called for mutual aid from nearby agencies, officers from Berkeley, San Leandro, Hayward, Pleasanton, Union City, the California Highway Patrol and Alameda County sheriff’s deputies arrived to help out.

As the night progressed,  rocks and  bottles were thrown at police. An employee of the Flora Restaurant was also bloodied by a hammer-wielding attacker as he apparently tried to protect the restaurant from damage.

The waiter — not critically injured  — was cared for by paramedics once they were able to get into the area.

The windows of the restaurant had been damaged during earlier protests. The windows of Comerica Bank, Men’s Wearhouse, and Youth Radio — a nonprofit group that trains young people for media careers — were also smashed Monday night.

By the time officers could get things under control, police say they arrested six men and two women on a variety of charges including assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, vandalism and similar offenses.

One male  juvenile was taken into custody for vandalism, and later released to a guardian.

Appearing on KQED”s “Forum” program Tuesday morning, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan addressed the violence during the past three nights, saying there was a difference between  “real demonstrators” and the vandals who have  been causing damage.

Quan told KQED:

“There are people who were peacefully and legitimately demonstrating and (the vandals) consistently hide within these crowds. … It’s frustrating to the organizers of the demonstrations too.”

Police say of the nine people arrested Monday night, the “majority” were from outside of Oakland.