Obama calls for calm as nation reacts to Zimmerman acquittal
Worshippers at the Middle Collegiate Church in New York wear hoodies in support of slain teenager Trayvon Martin Sunday in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman. (REUTERS)
In Washington, the U.S. Justice Department said it was evaluating whether it has enough evidence to support prosecution of Zimmerman in federal court after his acquittal in Florida.
Critics contend Zimmerman wrongly suspected 17-year-old Martin of being a criminal because he was black, making it a civil rights issue. At a rally in New York’s Union Square, more than 200 protesters turned out Sunday, chanting “No justice, no peace.” Some held signs calling for “Justice for Trayvon, Jail for Zimmerman.”
“I feel we don’t get justice when it’s needed,” said Kabrina Oliver, 18, a Boston high school student.
Obama, who once said, “If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon,” called for a peaceful response to a case that polarized the public from the beginning, raising issues of racial profiling and gun control.
The jurors who deliberated for 16 hours over two days found Zimmerman, 29, not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. If found guilty of the most serious charge, Zimmerman could have faced life in prison.
In Sanford at the largely black Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, pastor Valarie Houston dedicated a Sunday morning prayer service to Martin.
Civil rights leaders including Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), urged the Justice Department to pursue federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
A Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement Sunday the department would determine whether “the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction.”
Zimmerman, who showed little reaction when the decision was read, was unshackled from a monitoring device he had been wearing while on bail. He previously only left home in a disguise and body armor, his lawyer said.
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