(Headline USA) A Black Lives Matter protest in Oakland, California, turned violent when a group of criminals wearing helmets and goggles and carrying large signs that doubled as shields set fire to a courthouse, vandalized a police station and shot fireworks at officers, authorities said.
About 700 demonstrators participated in the march Saturday night, but then some broke from the larger group and smashed windows, spray-painted graffiti and pointed lasers at officers, said Officer Johnna Watson, an Oakland Police Department spokesperson.
Several fires were set in the downtown area, including one at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse that was quickly contained.
Criminals hurled rocks, ceramic paint-filled balls and frozen water bottles through windows at the courthouse, federal building and police building in a violent night, Watson said.
“This was different,” Watson said. “This group of protesters had specific intentions to participate in one way or another — whether that’s carrying backpacks in with clearly very heavy items, and the smaller group would actually be engaged in doing the damage — there is a nexus with all of the attendees.”
Police made several arrests but did not provide details.
The protest began earlier Saturday evening with groups such as the “Wall of Moms,” similar to a group that formed in Portland, Oregon, as criminals threatened U.S. agents deployed to that city to guard a federal courthouse.
President Donald Trump had sent the federal agents there to clamp down on violence that has occurred nightly since May 25.
Violence also broke out late Saturday in Sacramento.
After a peaceful demonstration, police said a separate group of 150 agitators wearing black clothing and protective gear broke windows and spray-painted graffiti.
A television news crew was assaulted and forced to leave the area and one person was arrested, police said in a statement.
In Los Angeles, police said criminals in the crowd assaulted officers and walked onto a freeway. Four officers and three demonstrators were treated for minor injuries and four people were arrested, Los Angeles police said on Twitter.
In Oakland, police called on the radical agitators to disperse as the night wore on and little by little they did, but they said they would be back, Watson said.
“The city is here to provide safe places and safe spaces for demonstrations, for marches, for protests,” Watson said, adding that many area businesses were likely spared damage because they were already boarded up following earlier demonstrations. “However, when there is violence against the police or first responders, this makes it dangerous for everyone.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.