Protests were held across the country this weekend after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, shot Martin the night of February 26, 2012, in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, as the unarmed African-American teen walked back to his father’s house after buying candy at a nearby store. A police report filed that night noted there was "no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter." We air voices of the protesters who marched in New York City, where thousands gathered in Union Square and then marched for hours, through Times Square and up into Harlem.
AMY GOODMAN: In one of the most closely watched murder cases in years, a Florida jury has found George Zimmerman "not guilty" on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for fatally shooting unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, shot Martin on the night of February 26, 2012, in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, as the teen walked back to his father’s girlfriend’s house after buying candy at a nearby store. A police report filed that night noted there was, quote, "no indication [that] Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter."
Zimmerman’s trial took about six weeks. All six of the jurors who decided his fate were women. Five were white, one Latina. They deliberated for more than 16 hours before they returned to the courtroom. This was the scene as Judge Debra Nelson received their verdict.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict? If you’ll please fold the verdict form and hand it to Deputy Jarvis. Thank you. OK, if you’ll please publish the verdict.
CLERK: Yes, ma’am. In the Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit in and for Seminole County, Florida, State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, verdict: We, the jury, find George Zimmerman not guilty. So say we all, foreperson.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: Does either side want to poll the jury?
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA: We would, your honor.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: OK, ladies and gentlemen, as—I mean, ladies, I’m sorry. As your juror number is being called, please answer whether this is your verdict.
CLERK: Juror B29, is this your verdict?
JUROR B29: Yes.
CLERK: Juror B76, is this your verdict?
JUROR B76: Yes.
CLERK: Juror B37, is this your verdict?
JUROR B37: Yes.
CLERK: Juror B51, is this your verdict?
JUROR B51: Yeah.
CLERK: Juror E6, is this your verdict?
JUROR E6: Yes.
CLERK: Juror E40, is this your verdict?
JUROR E40: Yes.
CLERK: Thank you.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: Ladies, I wish to thank you for your time and consideration on this case. We have recognized for hundreds of years that a jury’s deliberations, discussions ... Mr. Zimmerman, your—I have signed the judgment that confirms the jury’s verdict. Your bond will be released. Your GPS monitor will be cut off when you exit the courtroom over here.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the scene in the courtroom when the verdict was read in George Zimmerman’s murder trial Saturday night. Afterward, Zimmerman hugged his family members.
Trayvon Martin’s parents were not present. Later on Twitter, his father, Tracy Martin, tweeted, "Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY." The teen’s mother tweeted, "Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. ... I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!" That was Sybrina Fulton’s response.
Civil rights groups are calling on the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman. A petition launched by the NAACP gathered more than 225,000 signatures in the first few hours after Zimmerman was acquitted, temporarily causing the group’s website to crash. The Justice Department responded Sunday that it’s continuing to evaluate evidence from an ongoing federal probe, as well as evidence from the state trial, and that, quote, "Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation."
President Obama also responded to the verdict on Sunday. He issued a statement that, quote, "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. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities," he wrote.
Meanwhile, former presidential adviser Van Jones tweeted an image of Dr. Martin Luther King wearing a hoodie, like the one worn by Trayvon Martin.
Other responses were heard from the streets as protests were held across the country. In Los Angeles, protesters shut down the 10 freeway for 20 minutes. Here in New York, thousands gathered Sunday in Union Square, then marched for hours through Times Square and up into Harlem. These are some of their voices.
PROTESTER: [echoed by the People’s Mic] We need to show America enough is enough! Leave our youth alone!
TERRON DAVIS: As a young black man, me walking the street, me walking the street, I could be seen as a criminal with a deadly weapon, because, as they said, the concrete was a weapon to this young man. The concrete was considered a deadly weapon to this young man. So, it just—it harms me to feel like I—me walking the street is not safe. I’m not safe walking the street anymore.
PROTESTER: What do we want?
PROTESTER: When do we want it?
PROTESTER: What do we want?
PROTESTER: When do we want it?
MARLENE DUPERLEY: I have a son. It’s difficult because he sees it, and he’s already had dreams about it. And he’s already had dreams about the man following Trayvon. He woke up and told me, "Mom, I saw him following Trayvon." So, I mean, he has nightmares already. So that’s just a part of what we have to go through every single day. And I don’t think this country realizes what we go through as a black people and how we feel every day. And having our kids go out, we don’t know if they’re going to come home. And it saddens me. My heart is broken.
MARCUS WATSON: This is something that could happen to anyone’s sons, whether you’re black, whether you’re Latino, whether you’re Asian. Anyone can be taken. It’s about someone else saying that their lives mean more than yours.
INDIA: I had a feeling in my stomach, in my gut, and it felt like—I don’t know. It felt like it was my son. I cried. My name is India, and I’m with my daughter Kennedy, and it’s important, because I’m trying to show my daughter what—where we live and the country we live in. I don’t want her to think that all people are bad, but I have to let her know that there are some people out there who see black people, brown people, people who are different from them, as less than they are, and it’s not right. So I try to explain to her—this is like the perfect example. We watched the trial. We watched it every day. It was like homework. After camp, we sat down, and we watched it. And each individual day, we talked about it, and I discussed it with her.
MARLENE DUPERLEY: And I’m here for Trayvon Martin, for all the young black men and for everybody, for all of the people. It’s not even just about being black. It’s for everybody.
DANETTE CHAVIS: [echoed by the People’s Mic] We still today want justice! And we will not be satisfied until justice is obtained!
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices from the streets of New York City Sunday. Thanks to our new video fellows, Cassandra Lizaire and Charina Nadura, for producing that piece with Sam Alcoff. When we come back, we’ll speak with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Phillip Agnew, executive director of Dream Defenders, a group of youth of color formed after Trayvon Martin was killed. Stay with us.