Local, national rallies follow Zimmerman verdict
Posted July 14, 2013
Updated July 15, 2013
NEW YORK — Thousands of demonstrators from across the country — chanting, praying and even fighting tears — protested a jury's decision to clear George Zimmerman in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager while the Justice Department considered whether to file criminal civil rights charges.
Rallies on Sunday were largely peaceful as demonstrators voiced their support for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's family — and decried Zimmerman's not guilty verdict as a miscarriage of justice. A march in Los Angeles had minor unrest when a group threw rocks and batteries at police.
A crowd of about 100 people gathered Sunday afternoon at Moore Square in Raleigh and about 50 people showed up at a rally Sunday evening at CCB Plaza in Durham, saying that Martin's shooting death and Zimmerman's acquittal reaches beyond racial and state lines.
"There's a mixed group of people out here, because people are interested in justice, and people, I think, generally realize when justice has not been delivered," one protester, Natalie Bullock Brown, said.
Similar rallies happened in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Fayetteville.
The NAACP and protesters called for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted Saturday in Martin's February 2012 shooting death.
The Justice Department said it is looking into the case to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case. The department opened an investigation into Martin's death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.
The evidence generated during the federal probe is still being evaluated by the criminal section of the Justice Department's civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Middle District of Florida, along with evidence and testimony from the state trial, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and religious and civil rights leaders urged calm in hopes of ensuring peaceful demonstrations following a case that became an emotional flash point.
Sunday's demonstrations, held in cities from Florida to Wisconsin, attracted anywhere from a few dozen people to a more than a thousand.
At a march and rally in downtown Chicago attended by about 200 people, some said the verdict was symbolic of lingering racism in the United States. Seventy-three-year-old Maya Miller said the case reminded her of the 1955 slaying of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was murdered by a group of white men while visiting Mississippi. Till's killing galvanized the civil rights movement.
"Fifty-eight years and nothing's changed," Miller said, pausing to join a chant for "Justice for Trayvon, not one more."
In New York City, hundreds of protesters marched into Times Square Sunday night, zigzagging through Manhattan's streets to avoid police lines. Sign-carrying marchers thronged the busy intersection, chanting "Justice for! Trayvon Martin!" as they made their way from Union Square, blocking traffic for more than an hour before moving on.
In San Francisco and Los Angeles — where an earlier protest was dispersed with beanbag rounds — police closed streets as protesters marched Sunday to condemn Zimmerman's acquittal.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged protesters to "practice peace" after the rock- and bottle-throwing incident. Police arrested one man.
Rand Powdrill, 41, of San Leandro, said he came to the San Francisco march with about 400 others to "protest the execution of an innocent black teenager."
"If our voices can't be heard, then this is just going to keep going on," he said.
Earlier, at Manhattan's Middle Collegiate Church, many congregants wore hooded sweatshirts — the same thing Martin was wearing the night he was shot — in a show of solidarity. Hoodie-clad Jessica Nacinovich said she could only feel disappointment and sadness over the verdict.
"I'm sure jurors did what they felt was right in accordance with the law but maybe the law is wrong, maybe society is wrong; there's a lot that needs fixing," she said.
At a youth service in Sanford, Fla., where the trial was held, teens wearing shirts displaying Martin's picture wiped away tears during a sermon at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.
Protesters also gathered in Atlanta, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., along with a host of other cities.
Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, urged peace in the wake of the verdict. Jackson said the legal system "failed justice," but violence isn't the answer.
But not all the protesters heeded those calls immediately after the verdict.
In Oakland, Calif., during protests that began late Saturday night some angry demonstrators broke windows, burned U.S. flags and started street fires. Some marchers also vandalized a police squad car and used spray paint to scrawl anti-police graffiti on roads and Alameda County's Davidson courthouse.
In Los Angeles, police said a crowd of about 100 protesters surrounded an officer and eventually had to be dispersed by officers firing beanbag rounds.