America Gripped by Second Night of Fury over Not Guilty Verdict for Neighbourhood Watch Man Who Shot Black Teenager
Rachel Quigley et al., Daily Mail (London), July 15, 2013
Protests spread across the country Sunday in a second day of demonstrations in the wake of the sensational not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman after he shot dead unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Demonstrations, from Florida where the trial took place to Atlanta, DC and New York, remained largely peaceful, though Los Angeles protesters managed to shut down an entire freeway and thousands of New Yorkers mobbed Times Square and blocked traffic for an hour.
Emotional crowds screamed ‘Justice for Trayvon’ and carried signs that likened the struggle of the slain teen and his supporters to that of the original civil rights movement.
Enough protestors had gathered on foot in Los Angeles to shut down the city’s 10 freeway.
With cars backed up in their wake, the mob chanted their rallying cry: ‘Who’s streets? Our street, our freeway.’
Police were unable to clear the roadway and allow traffic to pass until around 7pm and photos show a face-to-face clash between cops and protestors on the highway.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles, protestors have had confrontations with police, according to NBC4, which reports that LAPD has fired rubber bullets into the crowd.
Bean bag rounds were also used to disperse the Los Angeles crowd and police said D cell batteries and rocks had been thrown at them.
As the night began to wear on in the City of Angels, protests became more serious.
An LAPD vehicle and a local news van were surrounded by angry Angelenos.
Some protestors climbed atop cars. Some of the cars were even moving, carrying the demonstrators down city streets toward Hollywood, where people would later fill and block the busy Hollywood and Highland Avenue intersection.
Five hundred chanting demonstrators had gathered in one of the the marches through Los Angeles streets by 10pm.
At New York City’s Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan, congregants wore hooded sweatshirts – as the 17-year-old Martin did the night he was shot.
‘I’m sure jurors did what they felt was right in accordance with the law,’ said congregant Jessica Nacinovich. ‘But maybe the law is wrong, maybe society is wrong. There’s a lot that needs fixing.’
Reverend Jacqueline Lewis addressed Trayvon Martin and gun control as part of her sermon at Middle Collegiate Church.
“We’re going to raise our voices against the root causes of this kind of tragedy,’ she told the room full of hoodie-clad, emotional congregants. ‘We’ll aim our fight for justice against the ease with which people can get firearms in this country.’
The New York march made its way to Times Square from Union Square in Manhattan around 6pm.
Leaders yelled calls for justice into bullhorns and hundreds of fists remained raised in the air as neon advertisements backlit the fiery crowd.
As their numbers swelled, the march continued up 5th Avenue toward Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood.
Police threatened to pepper spray unruly demonstrators, whose presence blocked traffic for more than an hour.
As the marchers walked on, they took to 5th Avenue and headed north with the darkened backdrop of Central Park.
As they made their may uptown, tensions seemed to rise.
Some believe the police began to clamp down on the crowd as it approached the Upper East Side home of Mayor Bloomberg.
Arrests had been made by 11pm and at least seven total demonstrators were taken into custody by police on disorderly conduct and related charges.
Earlier that day and one borough over, Solange Knowles, sister of superstar Beyonce, addressed a group at the Brooklyn Borough Hall on Sunday afternoon.
‘I really want this to be about Trayvon,’ she told gatherers at the demonstration she organized.
Beyonce, 31, took a moment to honor Trayvon Martin during her Mrs Carter Show World Tour concert at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Her concert started about 30 minutes after news of the Zimmerman verdict began to spread.
‘I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon,’ Beyonce said as the stage grew dark with just a few key lights shining.
Beyonce broke into the chorus of I Will Always Love You, a song written by country music star Dolly Parton and sung by the late Whitney Houston, before transitioning into her hit Halo.
The Knowles sisters are just two of the dozens of celebrities – Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kate Walsh and Stevie Johnson among them – who have voiced their opposition to the decision made by the six-woman jury in Florida.
Democratic mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio took Sunday’s demonstrations as an opportunity to address crowds and make his views known.
‘The verdict was a slap in the face to justice,’ de Blasio announced. ‘A young man was killed. Unarmed. It’s not an acceptable verdict. The Department of Justice needs to intervene in Florida immediately.’
The New York demonstrators managed to get around a formidable blockade of riot gear equipped police officers and other snags by zigzagging through the streets.
As if to foretell what unrest the Saturday acquittal of George Zimmerman may bring, protestors chanted as they marched for much of Sunday’s demonstration: ‘No Justice, No Peace!’
A rally and march in Chicago drew about 200 people.
Attendee 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 to ‘Justice for Trayvon, not one more.’
The racially mixed, insistent crowd Windy City held pictures of Martin as the called for justice and one held a picture of Till.
‘We’ve gone from approved killings in Mississippi in 1955 to approved killings in Florida in 2013,’ Airicka Gordon Taylor, protestor and cousin to Till, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
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.’
Protesters in the densely African American city of Atlanta, Georgia took to the streets early Sunday.
Some wore hooded sweaters in the 80-degree heat — similar to what Martin was wearing when he was shot — and carried cans of iced tea and bags of Skittles, which Martin was carrying when he was killed.
Word of the rally spread quickly via social media sites on Sunday, with demonstrators using the Twitter hashtag #MarchForTrayvonATL to tell others about the rally and to share photos.
In Boston, about 500 racially mixed protesters left their demonstration site in the Roxbury neighborhood and started marching in the streets alongside police escorts on motorcycle and on foot. Police called the march ‘very orderly.’
‘Morally it cannot be right, that a child cannot go about his business and go to the store,’ said Maura Twomey, 57, an acupuncturist. ‘Racism is not just an issue for the black community. It’s for all of us.’
Demonstrators raised signs saying ‘We Demand Justice,’ ‘Stop Racial Profiling’ and ‘Never Forget. Never Again. Justice for Trayvon.’
Detroit saw a crowd of about 500 gather the day after the controversial verdict in the city’s Grand Circus Park, reports the Detroit Free Press.
‘It’s a sad day in America,’ David Bullock of the Change Agent Consortium said in his address to the Motor City crowd. ‘When I saw the not-guilty verdict come across the screen, something in me broke. … It seems to be the only thing the brother did wrong was walk and be black at the same time.’
Zimmerman, a 29-year-old Hispanic, looked visibly relieved at the Seminole court on Saturday evening after the jury of six women reached their conclusion that he had justifiably killed the unarmed black 17-year-old last February.
In the San Francisco Bay area, marchers took to the streets once more after particularly rowdy Oakland, California reactions to the verdict Saturday.
Sunday, as on Saturday, flags were burned in Oakland, an historic hotbed of racial tensions.
Hundreds gathered there and in San Francisco, where demonstrations were more subdued.
Some beat drums and others blew bullhorns in San Francisco’s demonstrations. Several speakers addressed the crowds.
Police stood by to discourage the behaviors that made Oakland’s Saturday unrest one of the nation’s unruliest.
But as anger flared from coast to coast, President Obama, who’s spoken on the case before, urged Americans to keep their calm:
‘I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.’
The verdict on the case that has bitterly divided the nation, after the jury took more than 16 hours and 20 minutes over two days to reach their conclusion.
They unanimously decided the neighborhood watch volunteer and would-be cop justifiably killed the unarmed teen because he believed his life was threatened on that February night in Florida last year.
As the judge announced that Zimmerman had no other business with the Seminole court just after 10pm on Saturday, his mother, who was sat in the court, beamed a smile for the first time during the trial and his emotional wife broke down in tears.
Zimmerman jubilantly embraced both – realizing that after a year and a half of living as a hermit and virtual recluse – he was now a free man.
Trayvon Martin’s heartbroken mother has poured her heart out onto Twitter in the sensational aftermath of George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict.
In an emotional message posted just an hour after the jurors reached their decision, Sybrina Fulton called this ‘her darkest hour’ and prayed to Jesus for help and guidance.
‘Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!’
Trayvon’s father, Tracy, also posted his reaction to the social networking site approximately half-an-hour after the verdict was announced.
‘Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered, I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY (sic).’
Thanking everyone who supported the Martin family during the three week long trial, Martin also paid tribute to his 17-year-old son and re-iterated that he and Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina knew that he would be proud of their legal fight.
‘God blessed Me and Sybrina with Tray and even in his death I know my baby proud of the FIGHT we along with all of you put up for him GOD BLESS (sic)’.
Both Tracy Martin and Trayvon’s mother Sybrina Fulton chose not to be in the Seminole Circuit Court when the jurors announced their decision.