By Kathryn Varn and Susan Jacobson
11:09 AM EDT, July 14, 2013
A crowd of about 150 protesters outside the Seminole County courthouse chanted "no justice, no peace" after George Zimmerman was declared not guilty on Saturday night.
"He killed a young 17-year-old. He didn't have to die like that. He should be in prison for life," said Mattie Aikens, 30 of Sanford just after word of the verdict rippled through the crowd. "So you're telling me he's gonna walk home? ... This is not even fair! Are you serious?"
Shortly after the verdict was read, police shut all the entrances to the courthouse grounds, and most of the crowd that remained was subdued.
Malinda O'Neal, 29, of Deltona sat with her three young sons on the courthouse fountain wall after most of the crowd dispersed at about 11 p.m., "emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted," she said.
Five miles away, at the Goldsboro Welcome Center, the Rev. Lovisa Moore of Mt. Olive A.M.E Church in Sanford was one of many people who had tears in their eyes after hearing the verdict.
"Now I have to tell my grandson in this city where he was born, where his family grew up, he still has to watch his back only because of the way he looks," Moore said. "Change has not come."
"I'm going to start a new Neighborhood Watch," one man said as he left the welcome center without stopping to give his name. "I'm going to be the one with the gun."
More people congregated across the street in front of the Goldsboro Westside Community Museum. Several men wore black T-shirts with Trayvon's picture on the front and the sentence uttered by President Barack Obama: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
But that crowd, too, was calm. Sanford police Sgt. Cynthia Littles said people are "expressing themselves," but there have been no reports of violence.
Many of the protesters at the courthouse, their faces sunburned and sweaty from a full day outside, said they came because they had chosen sides: Most were vocal supporters of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed, black 17-year-old whom Zimmerman shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford.
Men from the New Black Panther Party out of Jacksonville walked around the crowd, speaking of the "injustice" of the ruling. Their shirts read: "Freedom or death."
"No one, no one could have foreseen that he would walk away," said Party chairperson James Evans Muhammad, 52.
The Coalition for Justice for Trayvon, a group made up of college students and recent graduates, kept up the chanting well after the verdict. At about 11:15, they silenced, folded up the banner and walked away, while the last few people spoke above the whirring of the television helicopters overhead.
Earlier in the day, law enforcement officers had to step in to cool tempers as things got heated in the crowd outside the courthouse.
Reporters and others on the scene said a man, who identified himself as Jack Scott, a Zimmerman supporter from Winter Springs, walked up to a group of people assembled in support of Trayvon and began yelling "go get your welfare checks" and "go get your crack" into the crowd.
A verbal altercation between him and another man in the crowd ensued.
Just before 9 p.m., a similar situation emerged and was quickly quelled, the Sheriff’s Office said.
H. Alexander Duncan, an African American elected official in Seminole County, spent Saturday inside and outside the courthouse.
Duncan has been at the trial daily, including during jury selection, and was there Saturday to motivate protesters to stay peaceful.
"The case gives us – as a nation – a chance to have an open conversation about race, politics, socioeconomic status and police," said Duncan, who was elected in November to the post of Seminole County Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor.
Correction* An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that H. Alexander Duncan was the only African American elected official in Seminole County. He is not. Dr. Velma Hayes Williams, for example, has served as Sanford's City Commissioner for District 2 since 1997
Desiree Stennett and Jerriann Sullivan contributed to this report.
Click here for full coverage of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.
Click here to see evidence photos from the case.
Click here to see pictures from the courthouse while the jury deliberated.
Watch video from the courthouse as the jury considered the case.
Read about the verbal dispute that occurred at the courthouse.
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