Zimmerman trial verdict sparks protests
Acquittal of George Zimmerman reverberates across the US
Trayvon Martin supporters stand in front of an American flag in Times Square after marching from a rally for Martin in Union Square in Manhattan. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Trayvon Martin supporters rally in Times Square while blocking traffic after marching from a rally for Martin in Union Square in Manhattan last night. George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the shooting death of Martin. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Protesters hold photos of Trayvon Martin at a rally at Union Square in Manhattan, New York City, yesterday. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images
An impromptu march through the streets of Manhattan calling for justice for Trayvon Martin continued into the early hours of this morning under heavy police scrutiny.
What began as a heavily attended afternoon demonstration in Union Square freewheeled into another large gathering at Times Square last night before several groups began making their way to the Adam Clayton Powell memorial in Harlem, chanting “Justice for Trayvon” as they marched.
The acquittal of George Zimmerman has reverberated across the US sparking nationwide protests in a renewed debate about race, crime and how the US justice system dealt with a racially polarising killing of a young black man who was walking in a quiet neighborhood in Florida.
Zimmerman (29) a neighborhood watch volunteer, had faced charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter - and the prospect of decades in jail, if convicted - stemming from his fatal shooting of Mr Martin (17) on the night of February 26th, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.
He was acquitted of all charges by the jurors on Saturday night. The all-female jury, none of whom are black, deliberated for more than 16 hours over two days.
“This is about solidarity – all races and all creeds turned out today,” said Daniel Alexander, a young New Yorker who carried a sign bearing the victim’s name.
“I’m African-American - actually am of Irish descent on my mom’s side and I can say that this is the first sit-in I ever attended. I started at Borough Hall in Brooklyn. Then we went to Union square and they started mobilising there. From 14th St we walked to 23rd. That’s when police started following us. Then we moved on to 34th; that’s where police attempted to block us and not let us past. We continued on to 42nd and stopped in Times Square and did our sit in there. We were stopped at 72nd and over at 83rd. At 99th they started walking with us and now we are walking towards 121st towards the Clayton Powell memorial. No Justice! No Peace!”
Several arrests were made as the disparate groups made their way uptown, chanting as they marched through the privileged sections of Park Avenue and the Upper East Side. The arrests occurred at the 79th street intersection when a number of marchers were causing an obstruction to traffic. Several marchers complained that pepper spray had been aimed at them but the marches continued in a peaceful mood atmosphere through Harlem.
Along 125th, drivers honked their horns and when the march cut through the residential streets of 131st, locals sitting on their steps began to applaud and joined in the chants. Outside the pizza parlours and delis and on the doorsteps, two names were on many lips: Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.
The numbers marching did not swell, however.
The biggest congregation had occurred earlier in the afternoon when up to one thousand people gathered in Union Square in Lower Manhattan. The sentiments ranged from specific outrage at the perceived injustice to Trayvon Martin and his family and a more general grievance at the treatment of young Afro-American males across the United States.
“You really feel that Trayvon Martin suffered two deaths when he was killed,” Danny Maree, from the East Village said.
“One came from George Zimmerman’s gun and the second from the Justice Department when they failed to arrest anyone. That is institutionalised racism.”
At the Middle Collegiate Church, several people wore hoodies in recognition of the hooded top which Travyon Martin had worn on the night he was killed. The Reverend Jacqueline Lewis wore a pink hoodie and said that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr would have “wanted us to conduct ourselves on the highest plane of dignity.”
The mood of restraint lasted through midnight as the last few hundred of the days marchers began to gather at 148th street, still in full voice and still followed by a significant police presence.
“We are in Harlem now and you know, this used to be predominantly black and then with gentrification a lot of different races moved in and they ripping down the apartments and building condos and all different races of people are moving in here,” Daniel Alexander said, inviting bystanders to join the march all the time.
“So if you are new here, you can see how police will treat people of colour. I have been stopped, I’ve been frisked. In New York that has become a natural occurrence in life and that is the sad part. It is not just a black and white thing necessarily.”
At around 12.30am, after a brief rally on the corner of Lennox and 148th Street the marchers made their way over the bridge and towards the Bronx.