Peace, and more chaos, at Trayvon Martin rallies across the U.S.
The not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman continued to stoke protests across the U.S., the latest one a sit-in at Tallahassee, Fla., on Tuesday morning, with more demonstrations expected through the week.
At least several dozen protesters gathered at the state capitol to protest Florida’s stand-your-ground law. It comes on the heels of three nights of sometimes violent protests in a number of cities, including Los Angeles, where 14 people were arrested on Monday.
Photos from social media showed demonstrators preparing a sit-in in Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office. At a Tuesday morning news conference, the Rev. Al Sharpton said he backed vigils and rallies to be held in 100 cities on Saturday, including at federal buildings, to call for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Momentum for widespread demonstrations was already well under way. On Monday evening, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Houston and Atlanta were among the cities that saw peaceful rallies to protest the acquittal of Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Sanford, Fla., where the shooting and trial occurred, remained peaceful, with local leaders asking for calm and unity. Protests in Los Angeles and Oakland, however, again turned chaotic Monday night.
Los Angeles police arrested 14 people overnight for failing to disperse after hundreds of protesters splintered off from a peaceful demonstration in the Crenshaw district and began stomping cars and breaking windows.
Among those attacked were a television reporter and his camera operator, one of whom was taken to the hospital with a possible concussion, according to law enforcement authorities.
“It started off as a peaceful protest at Leimert Park,” said LAPD Officer Bruce Borihanh. “Unfortunately, a small group started disrupting it. It just got out of hand.”
Protesters stormed a Wal-Mart at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, pushing their way through as guards scrambled to close security gates. A short while later, LAPD officers wearing helmets and carrying batons swarmed the store while more police walked the parking lot.
Vandals stormed into the Wal-Mart, threw merchandise on the ground and yelled, shoppers told a Los Angeles Times reporter. Some tried to break open jewelry glass displays.
At a late-night news conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti blamed the violence on a “a small group [that] has taken advantage of this situation.”
Early Tuesday morning, Najee Ali, a community activist, tweeted to a Times reporter: “never dreamed that one of my best nights as an activist bringing people together would end up later as one of my worst nights.”
In Oakland, where there were more arrests, hundreds of protesters stormed Interstate 880 near downtown Monday evening and blocked traffic in the southbound and northbound lanes. The protesters were cleared from the freeway and made their way downtown, authorities said.
Windows were shattered at a Men’s Wearhouse store, a Comerica bank branch and Youth Radio, according to police and media reports. A KPIX-TV reporter said vandals broke into the CBS affiliate’s remote broadcast truck.
In Houston, a rally began at a funeral home before turning into a march on the streets. “This is where they wish to send young black men -- to the funeral home,” community activist Quanell X told the Houston Chronicle.
Also on Monday night, a juror for the Zimmerman case came forward in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper to say that the jury of six women was initially split on Zimmerman’s guilt: Three of the women thought he was not guilty, two thought he was guilty of manslaughter, and one thought he was guilty of second-degree murder.
In the end, after wading through the evidence and looking at the particulars of Florida law, she said the women unanimously decided to acquit Zimmerman, 29.
“I think George got in a little too deep, which, he shouldn’t have been there,” said Juror B37, who remained nameless and whose face was shrouded in darkness during the interview. “But Trayvon decided he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him.”
Juror B37’s anonymous time in the spotlight -- so to speak -- may be short-lived. Just hours after she signed with the Los Angeles-based Martin Literary Management agency to write a book about the case, the agency’s president, Sharlene Martin -- who announced the deal in the first place -- rescinded the offer later Monday night, over Twitter.
After careful consideration of the book project with Zimmerman #JurorB37, I have decided to rescind my offer of representation.— sharlene martin (@sharlenemartin) July 16, 2013
Juror B37 followed up with her own statement, issued through Martin, Monday night:
“I realize it was necessary for our jury to be sequestered in order to protect our verdict from unfair outside influence, but that isolation shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case.
“The potential book was always intended to be a respectful observation of the trial from my and my husband’s perspectives solely and it was to be an observation that our ‘system’ of justice can get so complicated that it creates a conflict with our ‘spirit’ of justice.
“Now that I am returned to my family and to society in general, I have realized that the best direction for me to go is away from writing any sort of book and return instead to my life as it was before I was called to sit on this jury.”
Times staff writers Ruben Vives, Robert J. Lopez and Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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