Protests of Zimmerman verdict mostly peaceful; sporadic vandalism reported
Communities nationwide braced for a day of demonstration, and possibly even dissent, as the public awoke Sunday to learn a six-person Florida jury had acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder, overnight, in the February 2012 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Protesters on the West Coast massed, and in some cases marched, in four California cities, beneath the lingering sunshine that had already yielded to twilight and nightfall by the time the decision had been rendered shortly before 10 p.m. on the mostly quiescent East Coast.
Mostly, the California demonstrations proved peaceful, although matters were marred by sporadic reports of stray violence and vandalism, including the halt of a passenger train, the burning of American and California flags, the lighting of small fires in city roadways, shattered storefront windows and the spray painting of a courthouse, as well as the damaging of a police squad car.
In San Francisco, raucous, yet peaceful protesters marched on the city’s Mission District neighborhood; while about 200 in Los Angeles convened for a vigil in Leimart Park, or the city’s historically black neighborhood. City News Service in Los Angeles said, at one point, a smaller group halted an Expo Line train, somewhere within the city, but police could not immediately confirm details of that account.
Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Andy Neiman said another group of 50 to 100 demonstrators marched around midnight.
“There was a period where crowds were running among vehicles, but police dissuaded them,” he reportedly said, although he added that he knew of no arrests.
Meanwhile, in Oakland, police reported about 100 people protested, with some among the crowd breaking windows and starting fires in the streets. As the protest eventually fizzled, the office of police information added that it had no word of any arrests as of 2 a.m., PST.
However, some Oakland marchers reportedly vandalized a police squad car, and police were — at one point – forced to form a line to block the protesters’ path.
The Oakland Tribune reported some downtown office windows had been shattered, and footage from a television helicopter portrayed people starting fires in the street and spray painting anti-police graffiti. Protesters, there, also reportedly burned an American, and California state flag and spray painted Alameda County’s Davidson courthouse.
In Sacramento, more than 40 people gathered at City Hall, and the Sacramento Bee reported protesters riotously chanting: “What do we want? Justice. When do you we want it? Now. For who? Trayvon.” Meanwhile, a banner unfurled behind the speakers read, “No justice, no peace!” as the crowd cried out in unison.
Meanwhile, in Florida, media outlets reported mostly subdued sadness, and no violence or large gatherings.
“I’m sad,” was the only response Miami Gardens barber Steve Bass could muster to the Miami Herald, when asked for his opinion regarding the verdict. Bass had reportedly cut Trayvon Martin’s hair since the teen was a toddler.
Outside the Seminole County courthouse, where the trial took place, the Orlando Sentinel reported that a bewildered crowd of about 150 received the not-guilty verdict with chants of, “No justice, no peace.”
“He killed a young 17-year-old. He didn’t have to die like that. He should be in prison for life,” Mattie Aikens, 30, of Sanford, told the Sentinel. “So you’re telling me he’s gonna walk home? … This is not even fair! Are you serious?”
Some civic officials weighed in, with Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime telling The Herald via email, “The jury’s verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman is extremely disappointing. As a father of two boys, this case was personal. We should honor the life of Trayvon Benjamin Martin with a peaceful, non-violent response to the verdict.”
Meanwhile, preparations for a day of dissent and possible violence continued apace across Florida. In Miami, The Herald reported that many churches planned to remain open throughout the day, while CBS4 in Miami reported police had erected at least two so-called First Amendment Zones for protesters.
“Every church should be open tomorrow to enforce the word not to retaliate,” the Rev. Vernon Gillum told The Herald, adding he planned to keep God’s Tabernacle of Deliverance Ministry in Liberty City open all day, Sunday.
Just moments after the verdict was delivered, a Miami-Dade Police spokesman told The Herald that the department was warily watching developments across the southern Florida city.
“We’re playing it by ear, just like everybody else,” Detective Javier Baez reportedly said, adding Miami police had made “minor” changes to its Sunday routine, ordering officers who would normally report in plain clothes to don uniforms on Sunday.
“Everyone knows to be here in town if we have to be available,” Baez reportedly told The Herald.
A court public information officer said that members of the jury had no desire to speak to the media Saturday night. Identities of jury members are currently protected by a court anonymity order.
Supporters of Martin’s family who had gathered outside the courthouse yelled out “No! No!” when the verdict was announced.
“Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP, in a statement. “We call immediately for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin. This case has re-energized the movement to end racial profiling in the United States.”
“We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, in another statement. “We stand with Trayvon’s family and we are called to act. We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed.”
Around an hour after the verdict, Zimmerman’s father tweeted: “Our whole family is relieved. Today… I’m proud to be an American. God Bless America! Thank you for your prayers!”
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, tweeted “Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!”
The verdict came a year and a half after civil rights protesters angrily demanded Zimmerman be prosecuted. That anger appeared to return Saturday night outside the courthouse, at least for some who had been following the case.
Rosie Barron, 50, and Andrew Perkins, 55, both black residents of Sanford, stood in the parking lot of the courthouse and wept.
“I at least thought he was going to get something, something,” Barron said.
Added her brother: “How the hell did they find him not guilty?”
Perkins was so upset he was shaking. “He killed somebody and got away with murder,” Perkins shouted, looking in the direction of the courthouse. “He ain’t getting no probation or nothing.”
Several Zimmerman supporters also were outside the courthouse, including a brother and sister quietly rejoicing that Zimmerman was acquitted. Both thought the jury made the right decision in finding Zimmerman not guilty — they felt that Zimmerman killed Martin in self-defense.
Cindy Lenzen, 50, of Casslebury, and her brother, 52-year-old Chris Bay, stood watching the protesters chant slogans such as, “the whole system’s guilty.”
Lenzen and Bay — who are white — called the entire case “a tragedy,” especially for Zimmerman.
George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges Saturday in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
The jury of six women informed Judge Debra Nelson shortly before 10 p.m. local time Saturday that they had reached a verdict after deliberating for approximately 15 hours over two days.Zimmerman, 29, blinked and barely smiled when the verdict was announced. After hearing the verdict, Judge Nelson told Zimmerman he was free to go.
“We’re ecstatic with the results,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara said after the verdict. “George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense.”
Another member of his defense team, Don West, said: “I’m glad this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty.”
Prosecutors called Zimmerman a liar and portrayed him was a “wannabe cop” vigilante who had grown frustrated by break-ins in his neighborhood committed primarily by young black men. Zimmerman assumed Martin was up to no good and took the law into his own hands, prosecutors said.
State Attorney Angela Corey said after the verdict that she believed second-degree murder was the appropriate charge because Zimmerman’s mindset “fit the bill of second-degree murder.”
“We charged what we believed we could prove,” Corey said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Via: Fox News