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 to 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.
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!”
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.”
Earlier, at Manhattan’s Middle Collegiate Church, many congregants wore hooded sweatshirts – the same thing Martin was wearing the night he was shot – in a show of solidarity.
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. Protesters also gathered in Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.