America Responds To Not Guilty Verdict
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed today that the Justice Department was continuing to investigate the February 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, following a state jury’s acquittal of shooter George Zimmerman.
Holder said Martin’s death was tragic and unnecessary, and that the department would act “consistent with the facts and the law,” according to remarks he made at a convention of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority.
On Sunday, supporters and civil rights demonstrators turned out at rallies across the country to condemn racial profiling after the acquittal.
Zimmerman, cleared late on Saturday by a Florida jury of six women, still faces public outrage, a possible civil suit and demands for a federal investigation.
With civil rights activists clamoring for federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department is evaluating whether it has enough evidence to support prosecution of Zimmerman in federal court.
“It was such a shame. The whole case nearly destroyed George from day one … . That they put a racism spin on this prosecution just hurt him very deeply,” said John Donnelly, a close friend of Zimmerman who testified in the trial.
Critics contend Zimmerman, 29, who is white and Hispanic, wrongly suspected Martin, 17, of being a criminal because he was black. Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious looking person, then left his car with a fully loaded Kel Tec 9mm pistol concealed in his waistband.
A fight ensued in which Zimmerman suffered a bloody nose and head injuries, and Zimmerman shot Martin once in the heart.
The teenager had no criminal record and was staying in the neighborhood at the home of his father’s fiancee. He had been walking back from a convenience store where he had bought candy and a soft drink.
Protests around the country
Saturday’s not-guilty verdict was decried by civil rights leaders and protests were organized in several cities, including Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and here in Chicago.
At least 150 people gathered outside the Daley Center in Chicago on Sunday to protest.
Thousands of protesters chanting “No justice, no peace” gathered in New York City on Sunday to protest the acquittal, which prompted rallies across the country.
“I feel if we don’t step it up, we’re in trouble,” said Prince Akeem, 20, of the Bronx. “It’s young blacks being targeted and we have to stand up, stand up to the cops.”
About 1,000 to 2,000 of the demonstrators abandoned the protest site at Union Square to march in the streets toward Times Square, slowing or stopping traffic. Police attempted to funnel the crowd into controlled lanes but were unable to.
Police attempted to halt the march about eight blocks short of Times Square, which was already packed with tourists, but the demonstrators made their way around the officers.
In Los Angeles, more than 200 protesters in Leimert Park engaged police in a brief standoff. The protesters surrounded at least three patrol cars and repeatedly chanted “Trayvon Martin!
About a dozen other officers in riot gear stood by a block away. Some protesters chanted epithets at the officers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
After about 10 minutes, the demonstrators let the officers drive through the crowd. The police eventually left and the demonstration continued peacefully.
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. “They’ve been very orderly,” Boston police superintendent William Evans said.
‘Hurt, sad’ in Sanford, Florida
Around Sanford, some residents expressed relief at the verdict, while others said they failed to see how Zimmerman could have been acquitted.