Americans angry at the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin marched in US cities throughout Saturday night, with reports of sporadic acts of violence.
Spontaneous marches of varying sizes erupted in cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta and Philadelphia. A jury in Sanford, Florida, late on Saturday found Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, not guilty of shooting dead the unarmed Martin on the night of Feb. 26 last year.
After a year-and-a-half of living as a hermit, Zimmerman emerged from the Florida courthouse a free man, cleared of the charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Martin’s killing unleashed furious debate across the US over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. Protesters across the country lashed out against police in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, outraged that it took 44 days for Zimmerman to be arrested. Many, including Martin’s parents, said Zimmerman had racially profiled the teen. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Six anonymous female jurors — all but one of them white — considered nearly three weeks of often wildly conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor on the night Martin was shot while walking through the gated townhouse community where he was staying and where Zimmerman lived.
They deliberated more than 15 hours over two days before announcing they had reached a verdict.
After the ruling, rights activists like Jesse Jackson called for calm.
“Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies. Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair,” he wrote on Twitter.
Martin’s parents have long called for non-violent demonstrations, quoting civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr and the Bible.
Several hundred demonstrators marched peacefully in downtown San Francisco soon after the verdict. Many carried signs with slogans such as: “The people say guilty.”
Hours later angry protesters marching through Oakland spray-painted cars and smashed windows, helicopter video footage posted by the Oakland Tribune showed.
The ANSWER coalition said it would hold marches yesterday in seven US cities, as well as three separate ones in New York.
“We are very saddened by the jury’s verdict,” Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said after the verdict was read.
Rights activist Al Sharpton said on Facebook that Zimmerman’s acquittal was “a slap in the face to the American people.”
“The jury found he acted appropriately in defending his life in accordance with the law,” George’s brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr, said in an interview CNN, referring to the controversial Stand Your Ground laws that allow people who fear for their lives to use deadly force to defend themselves without having to flee.
However, Zimmerman Jr said his brother would “be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life.”