Zimmerman not guilty: Frustration aired at rallies across nation

People sit during services honoring Trayvon Martin at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)
<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

Peaceful but frustrated, demonstrators across the country gathered as the nation continued to react Sunday to a Florida jury’s not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman over the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

In New York, not long after the verdict was announced Saturday night, demonstrators started streaming back to New York’s Union Square. They set up candles and wrote their protests in chalk on the sidewalk, and wrote on cardboard placards phrases saying that Zimmerman “walks free because of racism.”

While some of the 50 or so people who gathered at 1 a.m. in New York were not affiliated with any group, many were from the Occupy Wall Street movement, and had come out to rally for Martin. Underneath the calm organization, there was a sense of frustration: They’d been here before, protesting something they thought was unjust, and nothing had changed.


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None of the nation’s demonstrations appeared to repeat the violence experienced in Oakland, where some protesters broke windows, burned flags and started small street fires.

A crowd of about 100 marched through downtown Oakland, according to the Oakland Tribune, carrying a banner reading “We Are All Trayvon Martin.”

Demonstrations were more peaceful elsewhere, although some led to arrests. In Milwaukee, two protests began late Saturday, with dozens assembled at each. As many as 75 people gathered at one Milwaukee event, where one person was arrested for allegedly resisting and obstructing a police officer, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

In Chicago, a group of more than 40 protesters marched to Daley Plaza chanting, “Justice for Trayvon!”

“There is a seething anger in the community,” the Rev. Leon Finney, a civil rights activist and radio talk show host, told the Chicago Tribune. “The hopes were that Zimmerman would have at least been convicted of manslaughter. Being found not guilty after that young man was killed, I think bodes bad for race relations in America between blacks and whites.”

In Atlanta, on his way home Saturday night, Grant Henry, who owns a bar colloquially known as Church, spotted on a local building graffiti promoting violence. He decided to take matters into his own hands, according to a post he wrote on Facebook.

“Out of fear that this evil message would spread like wildfire, I got home and grabbed a can of black spray paint, went to CHURCH and grabbed a witness, then went back to the scene and painted over the graffiti,” Henry wrote.

He then added a heart next to the blacked-out message and said he would pay the building owner for the cost of painting over the graffiti.

“I apologize to whomever, but I would probably do it again to try to nip danger in the bud and to ensure that the positive we are trying to build in our city is not lost to the ignorance of a few,” Henry wrote.

Some of the nation’s mayors used the verdict to make larger points about race relations and guns.

“Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known,” New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a leading gun-control advocate, said in a Sunday statement. “But one fact has long been crystal clear: ‘shoot first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, in his own statement, expressed disappointment that the all-female jury did not punish Zimmerman.

“The question now for all Americans is what are we to do in the wake of this tragic loss of life? I believe everyone should be calm and reflective,” Nutter said.

“Every day in America, African American males die on our streets in outrageously alarming numbers,” Nutter continued. “Whether they die at the hands of a vigilante or another African American male, we must all commit ourselves to eliminating the conditions in our community that cause too many people to see young African American males as ‘threats’ instead of seeing the promise within each child.”

Celebrities also responded to the verdict. Beyonce paused during a Saturday night concert in Nashville about 30 minutes after the verdict was announced. “I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon,” she said as the lights faded on the stage, the Associated Press reported.

Additional demonstrations across the country were expected later Sunday.

Here are a few popular tweets from Saturday night and Sunday:

Had a gun-toting Trayvon Martin stalked an unarmed George Zimmerman, and then shot him to death... DO I EVEN NEED TO COMPLETE THIS SENTENCE?— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) July 14, 2013

Setting aside that an unarmed teenager, who was minding his own business, was stalked and killed, and the killer has gone free...1/2— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 14, 2013

...the undeniable fact is that none of this would have happened if an emboldened George Zimmerman were not carrying a gun that night. 2/2— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 14, 2013

Defense Atty:”if George Zimmerman were black, he never would have been charged with a crime” Is he high?— Michael Steele (@Steele_Michael) July 14, 2013

1 of my friends left South Carolina bar last night b/c people were celebrating Zimmerman verdict &amp; screaming ‘Free at Last’ in an MLK voice— Wyeth Ruthven (@wyethwire) July 14, 2013

And of course, people believe Zimmerman’s unconfirmable story because OF COURSE black teenagers are aggressive and angry.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) July 14, 2013

A black kid came up to me on Market St the other night and apologized for wearing a hoodie and “looking scary” before asking for directions.— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) July 14, 2013

[For the record, 3:30 p.m. July 14: An earlier version of this post said Grant Henry was a church owner; actually, he owns a bar colloquially known as Church. Its formal name is Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium.]

Semuels reported from New York, and Pearce and Rojas reported from Los Angeles.


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