Protesters voice anger, disappointment at Zimmerman verdict
(www.foxnews.com) Thousands of people staged mostly peaceful demonstrations in cities across America Sunday, voicing their disappointment, and in some cases, anger at the decision by a Sanford, Fla. jury to find 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
Some of the most dramatic scenes occurred in Los Angeles, where protesters clashed with police Sunday night, with one group of protesters blocking a major freeway.
The Los Angeles Times reported that a splinter group from a larger protest walked down an on-ramp to the Interstate 10 freeway in the Mid-City section of Los Angeles and stood in the eastbound lanes, closing portions of the traffic artery for approximately 25 minutes.
The Los Angeles Police Department called a citywide tactical alert at approximately 7:30 p.m. local time following the freeway incident.Motorists were urged to avoid the area around the 10 Freeway and Crenshaw Boulevard due to jammed traffic.
The Times also quoted an LAPD spokesman who said that at least one arrest was made after rocks and D-cell batteries were thrown at officers at the corner of Washington Boulevard and 10th Avenue. Police also fired non-lethal rounds at the demonstrators. No injuries were immediately reported.
The city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, took to Twitter to ask city residents to “Exercise [the] 1st Amendment and practice peace in City of Angels tonight.”
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.
Some tempered their anger, saying they didn’t contest the jury’s decision based on the legal issues involved.
But “while the verdict may be legal, a system that doesn’t take into account what happened is a broken legal system,” said Jennifer Lue, 24, an Asian-American resident of Harlem.
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.”
Protesters also gathered in Atlanta, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., along with a host of other cities.
In Miami, more than 200 people gathered for a vigil. “You can’t justify murder,” read one poster. Another read “Don’t worry about more riots. Worry about more Zimmermans.”
Carol Reitner, 76, of Miami, said she heard about the vigil through an announcement at her church Sunday morning. “I was really devastated. It’s really hard to believe that someone can take the life of someone else and walk out of court free,” she said.
In Philadelphia, about 700 protesters marched from LOVE Park to the Liberty Bell, alternating between chanting Trayvon Martin’s name and “No justice, no peace!”
“We hope this will begin a movement to end discrimination against young black men,” said Johnathan Cooper, one of the protest’s organizers. “And also to empower black people and get them involved in the system.”
In Atlanta, a crowd of about 75 protesters chanted and carried signs near Centennial Olympic Park.
“I came out today because a great deal of injustice has been done and I’m very disappointed at our justice system; I’m just disappointed in America,” Tabatha Holley, 19, of Atlanta said.
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 South Florida fears of mass and violent protests proved unfounded in the face of a highly-visible police presence.
“I haven’t seen any evidence of problems yet, and hopefully there won’t be any,” Ed Shohat, a Miami-Dade’s Community Relations Board member, told The Miami Herald. “We do not believe (violence) will happen. Frankly, Miami is a … more mature community than … 25, 30 years ago when we had violent reactions to criminal court verdicts.”
Meanwhile, Mark O’Mara, who defended Zimmerman at trial, suggested his client’s safety was at risk. “There still is a fringe element that wants revenge,” O’Mara said. “They won’t listen to a verdict of not guilty.”
However, Martin supporters — for the most part — somberly grieved the verdict in a non-violent fashion.
Some detractors of the verdict spoke of a lingering and ineffable sadness, which they sought to privately assuage through the comfort of family and friends. Others convened in places of worship — and in so-called First Amendment Zones erected by authorities — especially for peaceful demonstration.
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.
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