Oakland -- Protesters took to the streets of Oakland for another night of marching Friday, this time with a symbolic destination: the Fruitvale BART station. And after days of seemingly aimless marches that had descended into vandalism, police arrived with a more visible, forceful presence.
Also new to the nightly protest was Kevon Paynter, 21, and several other African-American men who came wearing suits and ties and hoping to counter black stereotypes they felt the more radical protesters were perpetuating.
"It's a narrative problem," Paynter said. "What happens to a lot of black youth is they get a broad brush painted of who they are. Unfortunately, that's what led to Trayvon losing his life."
Friday evening marked the fifth night of Oakland protests in less than a week demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer. This, however, was the first time since the Saturday verdict acquitting George Zimmerman that Oakland protesters marched into East Oakland.
About a hundred people walked from downtown and along International Boulevard to hold a vigil at the BART station where another unarmed black man, Oscar Grant III, was killed by a BART police officer in 2009.
Paynter's group, Black Men United, mingled with the regular protesters, and at times persuaded them to reconsider negative messages.
Black teenager Justin Jones, 17, also dressed in a suit, walked up to one white protester and asked him why he was carrying a T-shirt depicting Martin, the slaying victim, sticking his middle fingers in the air.
The shirt, Jones told him, "perpetuates stereotypes." The protester shrugged, saying he didn't make it.
"We're getting the impression there's a lot of hateful messages here," said Jones, who is organizing a separate rally on Saturday.
One Oakland activist who has been critical of the disorganization and chaos of earlier protests said the symbolic destination might have helped give new meaning to protests that had begun to turn many people off.
"It makes a historical connection. It's important for people to see what happened with Trayvon isn't an isolated incident," said Kazu Haga, who teaches nonviolence in schools and jails.
Friday's march and vigil came just hours after President Barack Obama made a surprise statement in which he reflected on the acquittal of Zimmerman and in deeply personal terms.
"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," Obama said in his first on-camera response to Saturday's verdict. "In the African-American community at least, there's a lot of pain around what happened here. I think it's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away."
Crowds were smaller in Oakland on Friday evening than during earlier protests, but reminders of the chaos were still evident throughout the downtown area with windows still boarded up or marred by graffiti.
One group spent Friday evening completing a vibrant mural of Martin on the plywood covering broken windows at Youth Radio, a community news station between Broadway and Telegraph.
'They asked us to beautify the space and to not have it look so fearful," said artist Miguel Perez.
Oakland Police Department spokeswoman Johnna Watson said Friday night that every available officer would be on duty to monitor protesters' actions. While the department would help to facilitate the march to Fruitvale Station, Watson stressed that criminal activity would not be tolerated.
Staff writer Doug Oakley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.