NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Strong reaction has erupted in New York and across the country after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
A six-member, all-woman jury in Sanford, Fla., deliberated for more than 15 hours over two days before reaching their decision. They had been given the chance to convict Zimmerman of manslaughter but did not do so, despite asking for a clarification of the charge earlier in the evening.
After hearing the verdict, Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman he was free to go. However on Sunday the U.S. Justice Department did say that it would consider Civil Rights charges against Zimmerman.
As CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, protest rallies was planned for Sunday in Union Square, among other places, as people from both sides spoke out.
The protest in Union Square started shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday, by 7:30 p.m. that rally had ended but another began around 9 p.m. in Times Square. The Times Square protest caused traffic on 7th Ave to shut down between 42nd and 47th Street, but shortly before 10 p.m. some demonstrators had started making their way towards Harlem, while others began to return to Union Square.
By 11 p.m. the crowd was moving north along Park Ave and had made its way into the area around 79th and Park. By the time the march reached the Upper East Side several protestors had been arrested. At 11:30 p.m. the march was moving north and had made it as high as 107th street near 2nd Ave.
Another protest was also planned for 7 p.m. Monday at Hunts Point Plaza in the Bronx.
People also took to Union Square Saturday night to protest the not guilty verdict, and by Sunday afternoon hundreds had gathered in Newark, NJ to peacefully protest Zimmerman’s acquittal as well, the Associated Press reported.
Organizers say the outdoor protest staged Sunday afternoon drew a diverse crowd unhappy with a Florida jury’s decision to clear the former neighborhood watch volunteer in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Ignoring the sweltering heat and humidity, the marchers chanted “no justice, no peace” and Martin’s name as they made their way toward the federal courthouse.
There was a large police presence at the scene and a stretch of nearby roadway was briefly closed for the event. But officials say there were no reported problems.
Zimmerman and Martin encountered each other in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, suspicious of Martin, called 911.
Moments later, Zimmerman said Martin attacked him, and said he only used his gun to defend himself. The unarmed teen was shot once in the chest and killed.
The fact that Zimmerman was not immediately arrested raised racial tension across the country. It was only after public outcry that Zimmerman was charged.
“We are ecstatic with the results,” said defense attorney Mark O’Mara. “George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything but protecting himself.”
Prosecutors said they did their best.
“I am disappointed, as we are with their verdict, but I accept it,” said prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda.
Meanwhile, despite Zimmerman being cleared of any wrongdoing, the 29-year-old’s family remained fearful.
“Clearly, you know, he’s a free man in the eyes of the court,” said his brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr. “But he’s going to be looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life. There are factions, there are groups, there are people that would want to take the law into their own hands.”
And while disappointed with the verdict, the Martin family asked supporters to keep the peace.
“So we have to have very responsible conversations about how we get better as a country, and move forward from this tragedy, and learn from it,” said Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump.
Last year, Martin’s family held the Million Hoodie March in Union Square. Support for both Zimmerman and Martin is expected to continue in the coming days.