A group of approximately 25 masked suspects were spotted vandalizing areas around downtown San Diego Saturday afternoon following an “Occupy” protest, according to police.
Police said a large group of masked vandals were allegedly spray-painting graffiti on property near First Avenue and Island Avenue around 1:30 p.m. The group was last seen on E Street headed toward Children’s Park.
By 2:30 p.m., large numbers of San Diego police had set up a command post at a nearby downtown parking lot and were looking for multiple suspects wearing hoodies, sunglasses and bandanas covering their faces.
Authorities said they were able to detain at least four people matching the description of the masked vandals that were seen running around the Gaslamp spray-painting symbols on the walls of certain buildings.
Witnesses said the vandals were allegedly part of an “Occupy Wall Street” protest that took place earlier in the day. The group of more than 200 marchers was said to have been protesting a trade conference of multi-national companies and governments that took place at the Convention Center during the week.
One “Occupy” protester said the small group of masked vandals had been protesting with them and were reprimanded by their colleagues for branching off and vandalizing property.
“That person got checked and counseled and talked to. [We] said, `You know what brother, you're jeopardizing things for all of us.’ This isn't what a peaceful protest is about,” said the “Occupy” protester.
The original protest before the alleged vandalism included a march from the Civic Center to the Hilton Bayfront to protest a meeting of the Transpacific Partnership, where nine Asia-Pacific Nations are negotiating trade agreements between each other.
Protestors said conference attendees are attempting to do away with basic labor and environmental provisions in the U.S.
“Even like `buy local’ rules and farm-to-school programs that the county of SD is working on, all sorts of things, those are all considered barriers to trade,” said Women Occupy protestor Kristin Smith.
However, trade representatives argued that they are negotiating what's best for companies and workers in America.
“So our goal in negotiating this trade agreement is to make sure we get the best deal possible for the United States and make sure we break down barriers exports in other countries,” explained Carol Guthrie, U.S. Trade Representative spokesperson.
Despite the initially peaceful protest, by 2 p.m. police were searching for masked vandals in the Gaslamp area. Police were able to make a couple arrests in connection with the fresh graffiti vandalism.
“One individual was arrested for interfering with an investigation, another individual was arrested for an outstanding warrant,” explained Capt. Mark Jones of the San Diego Police Department.
The names of the suspects accused of vandalism were not released.