George Zimmerman verdict: Protest rallies in Denver and other cities across the country Sunday
Last Updated: 149 days ago
DENVER - From New York to California, demonstrators outraged over the verdict in George Zimmerman's murder trial took to the streets and to church pulpits Sunday to speak out against his acquittal and to demand federal charges on civil rights violations.
Protests were planned Sunday in Denver, Boston, Detroit, Baltimore, San Francisco and other cities over the Florida case, which unleashed a national debate over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. At least one protest in California hours after the verdict late Saturday ended with vandalism.
The Denver rally drew several hundred people near the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in City Park.
"We will not erase the conversation of race," said Jeff Fard, founder of Brother Jeff's Cultural Center in the Five Points neighborhood. "Don't be afraid to say if Trayvon Martin was a white man he would be alive today."
Organizers said race is still the gulf that divides our country, pointing to Saturday's verdict as the smoking gun.
"As long as we deny it then we are living under the blanket of ignorance and denial," Fard said
In Boulder people gathered for a prayer vigil on the Pearl Street Mall.
Stuart Lord said he went to find an outlet for his outrage.
"I don't think we got a message from the verdict that said racial profiling is wrong," Lord said.
In Manhattan, congregants at Middle Collegiate Church were encouraged to wear hooded sweatshirts in the memory of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager who was wearing a hoodie the night he was shot to death in February 2012.
The Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, wearing a pink hoodie, urged peace and told her congregation that Martin Luther King Jr. "would have wanted us to conduct ourselves on the highest plane of dignity."
But, she added, "we're going to raise our voices against the root causes of this kind of tragedy."
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.
Hours after the verdict, demonstrators gathered on U Street in Washington, D.C., chanting, "No justice, no peace." One protester carried a sign that read, "Stop criminalizing black men."
In Florida, about 200 demonstrators marched through downtown Tallahassee carrying signs that said "Racism is Not Dead" and "Who's Next?"
In Chicago, black clergy members called for calm, with the Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church saying the community should become "a united voice for peace" because it can't control the verdict but it "can control our streets and communities."
Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, have urged peace. Jackson said the legal system "failed justice," but violence isn't the answer.
But not all the protesters heeded the leaders' call.
In Oakland, Calif., some angry demonstrators broke windows, burned U.S. flags and started street fires. Some marchers also vandalized a police squad car and used spray paint to scrawl anti-police graffiti on roads and on Alameda County's Davidson courthouse.
Immediately after Saturday night's acquittal, the NAACP said it was "outraged" by the Florida jury's verdict and called on the Justice Department to prosecute Zimmerman for civil rights violations.
"The most fundamental of civil rights -- the right to life -- was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin," the petition read. "We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation. Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today."
NAACP spokesman Derek Turner told ABCNews.com that the petition garnered approximately 225,000 signatures between the hours of 11 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Sunday.
Sometime overnight, the NAACP's website crashed, Turner said, because of "too many viewers and too many hits."
The NAACP's website was still inaccessible as of this morning, and Turner said the organization is working to get it back up and running. He did not know how long the website had been down, but he was last able to access it around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, he said.
The same petition was also made available on MoveOn.org in partnership with the NAACP early Sunday morning. It gained more than 130,000 supporters by noon today.
"Our members, like so many Americans, are outraged at the verdict. Justice has not been served. The facts are clear: a 17-year-old boy is dead because George Zimmerman shot him. This is a sad day for our country and our justice system," MoveOn.org Civic Action executive director Anna Galland said in a statement.
An investigation had previously been opened by the Justice Department, and the department said Saturday night,
"The department continues to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial."
ABC News anchor Dan Abrams said it is unlikely the civil rights division will file charges against Zimmerman "because they can't win."
Copyright AP and ABC