Emotions Run High After Zimmerman Verdict

Monday, 15 Jul 2013 03:12 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Americans headed to the streets, their churches, and social media to express their emotions after Saturday's ruling that George Zimmerman was not guilty in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Protests were mainly peaceful, but violence did break out in several cities, as the nation seemed split between people who are angry or saddened at the verdict, and those who agree with the decision of the six-woman jury that allowed Zimmerman to go free.

Rallies and vigils have been held in Atlanta, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and others are planned in major cities such as Boston, Detroit, Baltimore, and Cleveland as outrage grows over the jury's verdict.

President Barack Obama called for Americans to remember that a jury has spoken in the case, while characterizing the teen's death as "a tragedy . . . not just for his family . . .but for America," and acknowledging that "passions may be running higher than ever."

While one side sees the trial as the result of a system that was slow to charge Zimmerman and quick to believe a white man's side of the events, the other considers Zimmerman to be a law-abiding man who was protecting his neighborhood and acted in self-defense.

Most of the nation's protests have been peaceful, but there have been some episodes of violence, particularly in Los Angeles, where protesters and police clashed and one group blocked a major freeway for about 25 minutes, prompting a Los Angeles Police Department citywide tactical alert, reports Fox News.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti used Twitter to ask residents to "exercise the 1st Amendment and practice peace in the City of Angels tonight."

On Monday, more than 100 officers also converged on protesters in front of the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard and arrested people.

In addition, protests turned violent in Oakland, Calif., where demonstrators broke windows, burned U.S. flags, and started fires. They also vandalized a police car and spray painted anti-police graffiti on roads and the Alameda County Courthouse.

Martin's death "raised powerful, incredibly difficult issues," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, while criticizing vandals who "dishonored the memory of Trayvon by engaging in violent activities that hurt our growing economy and endangered people."

"We will not tolerate violence in our city," she said.

In Chicago, a rally attracted people spanning many generations, who said the verdict was a clear sign that racism still lingers.

Maya Miller, 73, said the case reminded her of the 1955 slaying of 14-year-old Emmitt Till, a Chicago boy who was killed by a group of white men while visiting Mississippi.

"Fifty-eight years and nothing's changed," Miller said, pausing to join a chant of "Justice for Trayvon, not one more."

In Miami, where violence was feared, there weren't any serious problems.

"I haven’t seen any evidence of problems yet, and hopefully there won’t be any," Ed Shohat, a Miami-Dade 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."

But while there were not many protesters in the Miami streets, its African-American churches were full of people who were seeking solace.

The Rev. Arthur Jackson III, the minister at Antioch Missionary Baptist — where Martin's mother has worshipped — said he is still struggling for answers. The church's sanctuary was full in the hours after the verdict was released, The Miami Herald reported.

In other churches nationwide, members wore hoodies to honor the slain teenager, who had been wearing similar attire when he was killed.

At Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, Fla., the Rev. Gaston Smith delivered a joyful sermon because "They came to church sad today."

He told those at the service that judgment and vengeance belong to God, praying for Him to "Give us healing, not hatred. Make us better, not bitter."

After the service, Smith told The Herald that he stayed up all night praying and reading the Bible to try to make sense of the verdict.

"There’s a feeling in our community that a 17-year-old black kid has no value," he said.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, where about 700 protesters marched through the city, organizer Jonathan Cooper told Fox News he hopes the Zimmerman verdict "will begin a movement to end discrimination against young black men, and to empower black people and get them involved in the system."

And while the protests continued, Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara told Fox News his client is in danger from "a fringe element that wants revenge." Zimmerman can get his pistol back, and O'Mara said he'll likely arm himself again.

There's "even more reason now, isn't there? There are a lot of people out there who actually hate him, though they shouldn't," he said.


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