US Attorney General Eric Holder renewed hints the federal government may pick up where Florida authorities failed in their prosecution of George Zimmerman, as demonstrators continued to protest his acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman, 29, remained in hiding on Tuesday after a jury of six anonymous women on Saturday found him not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, ending a Florida state prosecution of a case that has captivated and polarized the US public.
The shooting in Sanford, Florida, on Feb. 26 last year prompted demonstrations when police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman and the verdict triggered a new wave of marches from critics saying Zimmerman racially profiled Martin.
Zimmerman’s defense lawyers said race was wrongly injected into the case and that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, accusing civil rights leaders of inflaming racial passions with calls for a federal investigation on civil rights grounds.
In California, police and civic leaders braced for unrest while appealing for calm on Tuesday after nearly two dozen protesters in Los Angeles and Oakland were arrested during a second night of civil unrest sparked by the not guilty verdict.
Police in Los Angeles said the lawlessness was committed by about 150 people who broke off from an otherwise peaceful vigil held in memory of Martin. In Oakland, about 250 protesters swarmed the streets on Monday night, vandalizing cars and businesses and scrawling graffiti. Nine were arrested.
One of the six jurors, “B-37,” told CNN on Monday she did not think Zimmerman racially profiled Martin and believed Martin attacked Zimmerman first. The entire panel — five white women and one Hispanic woman — believed race played no role in the case, she said.
Juror B-37’s interview with CNN, her faced blacked out in silhouette, prompted extreme reactions including death threats on social media.
Holder told the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Orlando that his office would continue its investigation of the case, which could possibly lead to federal charges against Zimmerman.
Holder called for a review of self-defense laws like the one that seemed to play a role in the acquittal. According to the jury’s instructions, Zimmerman had “no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force” if he reasonably feared for his life or great bodily harm, as stipulated by Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Holder, who is black, also related personal stories about being racially profiled.
“Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down and have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me,” Holder said. “This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down.”
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton called a “Justice for Trayvon Day,” planning a further 100 demonstrations in 100 cities on Saturday.
“People from all over the country will gather to show that we are not having a two or three-day anger fit. This is a social movement for justice,” Sharpton told reporters.
The case has also provoked reactions from celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, who on Sunday said that in the future he would not perform in any state with “Stand Your Ground” laws until they are repealed.