After George Zimmerman was found not guilty on Saturday in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin , President Obama reacted to the verdict with a plea for peace as protests broke out in a number of U.S. cities.
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America,” the president said in a statement. “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. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”
Obama went on to make a push for compassion and another plea to stem the tide of gun violence in our nation. “We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this,” he said. “As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.” The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights division said on Sunday that is reopening its probe into whether the shooting of Martin is prosecutable under any federal criminal civil rights statutes.
The verdict sparked spontaneous protests across the nation on Sunday and early Monday (July 15), the majority of which were peaceful.
In Los Angeles, some protesters hurled rocks, flashlight batteries and chunks of concrete at police, who responded by shooting bean bags and making at least nine arrests early Monday morning, according to CNN.
There were also protests in San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Detroit and New York, where demonstrators marched across Manhattan and gathered in Times Square, carrying “Justice for Trayvon Martin” posters and assembling on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse early Monday morning for a moment of silence in 17-year-old Martin’s honor.
At least a dozen arrests were reported in New York and a number of those who gathered demanded further investigation into the case and expressed their belief that shooting victim Martin’s death was a case of racial profiling.
“Only white life is protected in America,” a protester shouted in Washington, while others chanted the phrase “no justice, no peace” and “Trayvon was murdered” in D.C. In Los Angeles, around 100 marchers blocked one of the city’s major freeways for nearly 20 minutes on Sunday night. Police in Sanford, Florida, stepped up their patrols around the gated community, where the shooting occurred as Zimmerman’s brother told CNN that he worried for his sibling’s life because of the threat of vigilante’s taking the law into their own hands.