15 Jul 2013

Protesters march in outrage over Zimmerman verdict

Europe Editor and Presenter

From New York to LA, thousands of protesters take to the streets to voice outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was cleared of the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Crowds large and small gathered to demonstrate against what they said was a miscarriage of justice, some chanting “Justice for Trayvon Martin!”.

Protesters led by civil rights leaders are appealing for further investigation into the verdict.

President Barack Obama described the death of Trayvon Martin as “a tragedy”, but appealed for calm and called on Americans to accept the acquittal of the teenager’s killer, George Zimmerman.

Protesters took to the streets across California, New York, Boston and in Washington DC. In Los Angeles, police officers were put on tactical alert, and protesters blocked a major motorway, stopping traffic for around 25 minutes.

New York’s Times Square was closed to traffic to try and control protests there, after around 1,000 people gathered, and a march at times broke out into disorder. In Boston, about 500 protesters started marching in the streets alongside police escorts on motorcycles and on foot.

Demonstrators raised signs saying “We Demand Justice,” “Stop Racial Profiling” and “Never Forget. Never Again. Justice for Trayvon.”

Naomi White, 69, a retired teacher from San Francisco, told reporters there: “I feel a moral obligation to be in the street and object to this kind of racist policy. George Zimmerman got away with murder.”

A jury found the 29-year-old Mr Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder late on Saturday night, and declined to convict him on a lesser charge of manslaughter.

The neighbourhood watch volunteer has said he shot the 17-year-old in self-defence in a night-time confrontation in his Florida gated community, where Martin was visiting family.

Further charges

Despite being declared a free man, Mr Zimmerman may still face charges over the death of Trayvon Martin.

The US Justice Department said it is looking into Trayvon’s death to decide whether federal prosecutors will file criminal civil rights charges against Mr Zimmerman. He may also face civil lawsuits from Martin’s family.

Speaking out about the verdict on a case that doesn’t directly involve the federal government was very rare for the US president,

“I know this case has elicited strong passions,” said the president. “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.”

Numerous celebrities also paid tribute to Trayvon Martin. Bringing London’s Wireless festival to a close, Jay-Z paid tribute to the teenager, saying: “Rest in peace Trayvon Martin,” while Beyonce called for a moment of silence during a concert on Sunday.