Angry protesters take to streets as George Zimmerman cleared - but further charges could follow
US protesters brought Times Square to a standstill last night, as celebrities and the public expressed outrage at the acquittal of George Zimmerman over the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
There were demonstrations in Washington just hours after the verdict was announced late on Saturday, and on Sunday night in New York police lines were broken as thousands of marchers chanted: “Justice for Trayvon Martin!”
The killing has sparked a national debate over racial profiling and equal justice, and earlier protests in San Francisco and Los Angeles were dispersed by police firing beanbag rounds.
Civil rights leaders have called for anyone expressing their anger to do so peacefully, and most have complied. The Reverend Jesse Jackson said the legal system had “failed justice”, but added that violence is not the answer.
President Barack Obama called Mr Martin's death a tragedy, taking the unusual action of issuing a statement on a case not involving the federal government.
He urged calm, saying: “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.”
At London’s Wireless festival last night closing act Jay-Z thanked the crowds and added: “Rest in peace, Trayvon Martin.” Also performing - in their first show for 20 years - were hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest, who issued their own call for peace.
“I don't want to be a downer but yesterday in America, we saw a miscarriage of justice,” said band member Q-Tip. “It's not the first time this has happened. Pray for us... we need help.”
In New York, the Times Square protest continued late into the night after a rally starting in Union Square at 2pm gathered momentum on its way north. Once it arrived at the famously busy intersection the number of people was “overwhelming”, according to reports from the New York Post.
Protesters jumped on ticket booths and trucks, using loudspeakers to proclaim: “We’ve taken over Times Square!” They told reporters: “We want equality,” adding that: “We will continue to interrupt your lives until we get justice.”
The anger came after a jury on Saturday found 29-year-old neighbourhood watch volunteer Mr Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and declined to convict him on a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Jurors were told that Zimmerman was allowed to use deadly force when he shot the unarmed 17-year-old not only if he actually faced death or bodily harm, but also if he just thought he did.
He is not completely in the clear, as the Justice Department said it is looking into the possibility of filing criminal civil rights charges against Mr Zimmerman.
And his brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr, told CNN: ”He's going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life.”
Independent News Service