After Zimmerman acquittal: Protests
By Holly Yan and AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
Just how much George Zimmerman’s murder trial polarized America was on full display once the verdict was read.
Across the country Sunday and early Monday, outraged protesters poured on to streets while supporters kept largely quiet. Protesters denounced the six-woman jury’s decision Saturday to find Zimmerman not guilty in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
While the vast majority of protests were peaceful, parts of Los Angeles grew tense.
Some protesters hurled flashlight batteries, rocks and chunks of concrete toward police in Los Angeles, police spokesman Andrew Smith said. Police responded by shooting bean bags at protesters.
“LAPD is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” Smith said Sunday night. “We hope everyone can exercise their First Amendment right to free speech, then get tired and go home.”
Some demonstrators continued their efforts into Monday morning. At least nine people were arrested, Smith said.
Across the country
Thousands also rallied in San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Detroit, New York and other cities.
In New York, demonstrators marched across Manhattan and filled Times Square.
“This is what democracy looks like,” they chanted.
About a dozen people were arrested across New York amid the protests, police said.
In Florida, just steps away from the courthouse where a jury acquitted Zimmerman, demonstrators vowed that their fight wasn’t over.
“Nationwide protest to demand justice,” protesters chanted in Sanford, Florida.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for protests to continue, but to remain peaceful.
“There will be protests, but they must be carried out with dignity and discipline,” he told CNN’s “New Day.”
“What will happen if there, in fact, are riots, it gives sympathy to Zimmerman, and discredits Trayvon. Trayvon deserves sympathy. Zimmerman and his school of thought does not.”
Many of the protests, including those in New York and Los Angeles, drew demonstrators from a wide variety of races. But many expressed the same belief — that Martin’s death was spurred by racial profiling, and that Zimmerman’s acquittal was unjust.
“Only white life is protected in America,” one protester in Washington shouted Sunday.
Others chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Trayvon was murdered” as they marched, freelance photographer Michael Kandel told CNN’s iReport.
Protesters demanded that the government investigate further, Kandel said.
“They believe that this is a civil rights issue that must become the topic of a national conversation in the coming days,” he said. “They did not believe justice had been served.”
Some demonstrators in Denver, Baltimore and Detroit wore hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin wore when he was killed.
The other side
Zimmerman, his family and their supporters have denied allegations of racism and argued that civil rights groups are being incendiary without facts to back up their claims.
Reactions to the verdict were not necessarily split along racial lines.
Tony Johnson, who is black, said he was disturbed by the “outbursts from people who didn’t know the facts of the case, yet (were) still screaming about an injustice.”
“I’m actually glad the verdict was not guilty,” Johnson told CNN’s iReport. “Only based on the evidence that was presented in court, it screams self-defense.
“This wasn’t about race,” Johnson continued. “It was about a man’s rights to defend himself. It’s not a crime to follow anybody; therefore, the fact that they got into an altercation and George Zimmerman was forced to use deadly force, it’s not a crime. Our Constitution states that.”
Numerous CNN.com readers agreed.
“George Zimmerman has committed no crime,” wrote one commenter identified as Michael Newman. “He’s an innocent man; according to the laws of our country and our system; which is the best in the world.”
Pushing for peace
President Barack Obama called for peace Sunday and acknowledged the Zimmerman case has stirred strong emotions.
“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” he said.
“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis,” Obama said.
Some applauded the jury for siding with the neighborhood watch volunteer’s claims that he shot the teen in self-defense. Others said prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Critics of the verdict like Terri Weems said the trial was a referendum on race that confirmed what they knew all along.
“That’s our society,” Weems said as she headed into church in Washington on Sunday. “We expected not to be given justice. We haven’t been dealt justice all this time. … It’s very disheartening.”
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the largely peaceful protests were a positive sign.
“I think we should, frankly, right now be celebrating the fact that we’ve seen a generation of young people respond by using our system, raising their voices, but not using their fists,” he said.
CNN’s Jake Carpenter, Catherine E. Shoichet, Alan Duke, Lawrence Crook and Jareen Imam contributed to this report.
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