Zimmerman Verdict Prompting Rallies
NEW YORK (AP) – With chants and prayers, sermons and signs, outrage over a jury’s decision to clear George Zimmerman in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager poured from street protests and church pulpits Sunday amid calls for federal civil rights charges to be filed in the case.
Demonstrations large and small broke out across the country – ranging from a few dozen to several hundred – in support of the family of Trayvon Martin as protesters decried the not guilty verdict as a miscarriage of justice.
The NAACP and protesters called for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday in Martin’s February 2012 shooting death, which unleashed a national debate over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice.
The Justice Department said it is looking into the case to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and religious and civil rights leaders urged call in hopes of ensuring peaceful demonstrations in the wake of a case that became an emotional flash point.
At Manhattan’s Middle Collegiate Church, many congregants wore hooded sweatshirts – the same thing Martin was wearing the night he was shot. Hoodie-clad Jessica Nacinovich said she could only feel disappointment and sadness over the verdict.
“I’m sure jurors did what they felt was right in accordance with the law but maybe the law is wrong, maybe society is wrong; there’s a lot that needs fixing,” she said.
The Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, wearing a pink hoodie, urged a peaceful but vocal response.
“We’re going to raise our voices against the root causes of this kind of tragedy,” she said, adding, “We’ll aim our fight for justice against the ease with which people can get firearms in this country.”
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.
About 200 people turned out for a rally and march in downtown Chicago, saying the verdict was symbolic of lingering racism in the U.S.