Trayvon Martin reaction

People sit during services honoring Trayvon Martin at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. (Mario Tama / Getty Images / July 14, 2013)

Peaceful but frustrated, demonstrators across the country gathered as the nation continued to react Sunday to a Florida jury's not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman over the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

In New York, not long after the verdict was announced Saturday night, demonstrators started streaming back to New York’s Union Square. They set up candles and wrote their protests in chalk on the sidewalk, and wrote on cardboard placards phrases saying that Zimmerman "walks free because of racism.”

While some of the 50 or so people who gathered at 1 a.m. in New York were not affiliated with any group, many were from the Occupy Wall Street movement, and had come out to rally for Martin. Underneath the calm organization, there was a sense of frustration: They’d been here before, protesting something they thought was unjust, and nothing had changed.

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None of the nation's demonstrations appeared to repeat the violence experienced in Oakland, where some protesters broke windows, burned flags and started small street fires.

A crowd of about 100 marched through downtown Oakland, according to the Oakland Tribune, carrying a banner reading “We Are All Trayvon Martin.” 

Demonstrations were more peaceful elsewhere, although some led to arrests.  In Milwaukee, two protests began late Saturday, with dozens assembled at each. As many as 75 people gathered at one Milwaukee event, where one person was arrested for allegedly resisting and obstructing a police officer, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

In Chicago, a group of more than 40 protesters marched to Daley Plaza chanting, "Justice for Trayvon!"

“There is a seething anger in the community,” the Rev. Leon Finney, a civil rights activist and radio talk show host, told the Chicago Tribune. “The hopes were that Zimmerman would have at least been convicted of manslaughter. Being found not guilty after that young man was killed, I think bodes bad for race relations in America between blacks and whites.”

In Atlanta, on his way home Saturday night, Grant Henry, who owns a bar colloquially known as Church, spotted on a local building graffiti promoting violence. He decided to take matters into his own hands, according to a post he wrote on Facebook.

"Out of fear that this evil message would spread like wildfire, I got home and grabbed a can of black spray paint, went to CHURCH and grabbed a witness, then went back to the scene and painted over the graffiti," Henry wrote.

He then added a heart next to the blacked-out message and said he would pay the building owner for the cost of painting over the graffiti.

"I apologize to whomever, but I would probably do it again to try to nip danger in the bud and to ensure that the positive we are trying to build in our city is not lost to the ignorance of a few," Henry wrote.

Some of the nation's mayors used the verdict to make larger points about race relations and guns.

"Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known," New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a leading gun-control advocate, said in a Sunday statement. "But one fact has long been crystal clear: ‘shoot first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns."

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, in his own statement, expressed disappointment that the all-female jury did not punish Zimmerman.

"The question now for all Americans is what are we to do in the wake of this tragic loss of life? I believe everyone should be calm and reflective," Nutter said.

"Every day in America, African American males die on our streets in outrageously alarming numbers," Nutter continued. "Whether they die at the hands of a vigilante or another African American male, we must all commit ourselves to eliminating the conditions in our community that cause too many people to see young African American males as 'threats' instead of seeing the promise within each child."

Celebrities also responded to the verdict. Beyonce paused during a Saturday night concert in Nashville about 30 minutes after the verdict was announced. “I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon,” she said as the lights faded on the stage, the Associated Press reported.

Additional demonstrations across the country were expected later Sunday.

Here are a few popular tweets from Saturday night and Sunday:

[For the record, 3:30 p.m. July 14: An earlier version of this post said Grant Henry was a church owner; actually, he owns a bar colloquially known as Church. Its formal name is Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium.]

Semuels reported from New York, and Pearce and Rojas reported from Los Angeles.


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