From the streets of Boynton Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami to the call-in shows of black-oriented radio stations, there were expressions of outrage at the jury's verdict in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager.
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"I don't think it's right," said Darrell Thompson, 57, speaking at the Quick Stop convenience store on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Boynton Beach. ''Our justice system doesn't work the right way. If it worked the right way Zimmerman would have had life in prison."
As of early Sunday morning, there were no reports of violence, despite concerns expressed earlier in the week by church leaders and law enforcement officials over the potential reaction to an acquittal. Law enforcement officials went on the radio to ask for calm.
"We're hoping and praying for the best but we're prepared for the worst," Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said on the air at WHQT-Hot 105 in Hollywood, which has a large black audience. "We don't think that's going to happen. We think the community is going to move forward and heal in a dignified manner and whatever we can do to help out we will be there."
The outrage came within minutes of the announcement of the verdict Saturday night.
"I think it's a whole bunch of B.S. because if the cards were switched around then Trayvon would have been found guilty,” said a caller to Miami’s WEDR radio station shortly after the verdict.
In northwest Fort Lauderdale, Mike Jones, 21, who was sitting outside his house and following the news on his tablet, said Zimmerman got away with murder in shooting the teenager walking through the neighborhood.
“What damage can he do with a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona?” he asked.
As a group of kids walked down Northwest 8th St. past 15th Avenue, he said, “What are they doing? Nothing. It doesn’t feel safe in America.”
New Mount Olive Baptist Church, of Fort Lauderdale, will host a Community Peace Rally Tuesday at 7 p.m., which will include law enforcement and elected officials.
“This rally is not for the sake of bashing George Zimmerman or any vigilante justice,” Senior Pastor Marcus D. Davidson said Saturday night. “This rally is for the sake of understanding regardless the verdict; we must ensure that peace prevails among our people and our community.”State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said the Stand Your Ground law should be changed to require defendants who invoke self-defense to take the stand and explain what happened. Zimmerman did not take the stand in the trial.
"If you claim self defense and the other person is dead you should at least have to take the stand and one person in the altercation explain what happened," Smith said. "One thing we're trying to do with the Florida law is you don't have to take the stand to incriminate yourself unless you're claiming self defense, and the other person can't even testify. You should have to take the stand to tell what happened."
Streets in Miami remained quiet, with little police presence in the neighborhoods of Liberty City, Little Haiti and Overtown. A few police cars were idling at intersections with emergency lights flashing. There were few pedestrians.
Martin Luther King Park in Liberty City, which police had designated as one of two protest zones, was dark and empty.
Defense lawyer Johnny McCray, of Pompano Beach, said that as an attorney he thought the jury made the correct decision but as a black man he was troubled by the circumstances, with its themes of racial profiling and the stereotyping of young black men.
“I’m not surprised at the verdict,” he said. “Looking at it from a black man’s perspective, I’m sad, but looking at it as a defense lawyer, I think it’s an appropriate verdict. I think that we have to respect the verdict because there existed a mountain of reasonable doubt in this case.”
Zimmerman, who claimed he fired in self defense, had faced charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of the unarmed 17-year-old boy. Zimmerman had faced the possibility of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
In response to a listener saying the verdict might spark riots, WEDR DJ Papa Keith Walcott said, "We're not condoning any riots. Riots are not going to solve anything. We definitely want people to stay focused. This is disappointing to a lot of people, and for a lot of people it's not, and everyone's entitled to their opinion but riots are never a solution."
At Troy's Bar BQ in Boynton Beach, employee Travis Davis, 21, said the verdict “turned my stomach."
"It puts you in a rage,” he said. “You feel like things have changed, but it hasn't changed."
Charkayla Dukes, 24, a nurse and a customer at Troy’s, was at work when she heard the verdict. "My heart goes out to the mother, she'll never be able to have her son back,” she said, "I can't imaging having to bury my child, I want my child to bury me."
Rae Whitely, of Boynton United, a minority activist group that opposes violence, said, "I'm at a loss for words. We have to remain optimistic. We may encounter disappointment, but we cannot and will not lead us down a path of regret."Staff writers Rafael Olmeda, Ihosvani Rodriguez and Adam Sacasa contributed to this report.