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July 15, 2013

Rallies large and small follow Zimmerman verdict

NEW YORK — 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 more than a thousand — 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 calm in hopes of ensuring peaceful demonstrations in the wake of a case that became an emotional flash point.

In New York City, hundreds of protesters marched into Times Square on Sunday night, zigzagging through Manhattan’s streets to avoid police lines. Sign-carrying marchers thronged the busy intersection, chanting “Justice for! Trayvon Martin!” as they made their way from Union Square, blocking traffic for more than an hour before moving on.

In San Francisco and Los Angeles — where an earlier protest was dispersed with beanbag rounds — police closed streets as protesters marched Sunday to condemn Zimmerman’s acquittal.

Rand Powdrill, 41, of San Leandro, said he came to the San Francisco march with about 400 others to “protest the execution of an innocent black teenager.”

“If our voices can’t be heard, then this is just going to keep going on,” he said.

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