A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter Saturday night in the shooting death of African American teen Trayvon Martin.
As many protesters have taken to the streets in Chicago, conversation on social media is turning to the level of violence in the city. In light of the widespread grief and anger over the George Zimmerman verdict, some have pointed to the high rate of violence in Chicago:
Here is a sampling of the heated conversation on Twitter:
There were 20 blacks shot and killed in Chicago in the first week of July. That's almost three Trayvon Martins a day. http://t.co/VLMXHw1nGg
— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) July 14, 2013
— Liberal Liberator (@LibralLiberator) July 14, 2013
This has elicited some impassioned responses on social media:
There is nothing more arrogant, paternalistic, & wrongheaded than White people telling us we can't grieve for Trayvon bc of Chicago deaths.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) July 14, 2013
"You can't be mad about Trayvon's Death, because you haven't stopped violence in Chicago!" <– stupid premise, stupid point.
— DJ Pain 1 (@djpain1) July 14, 2013
President Obama released a statement late Sunday afternoon in response to the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, which has dominated the news for since late Saturday. Here’s that statement in full:
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”
Last spring, as Zimmerman avoided arrest and activists called for justice, Obama commented on the death of Martin, who was 17-years-old and unarmed.
“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said in late March. “I think [his parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
Protesters have taken to the streets in New York City and Chicago, chanting slogans such as ‘Justice for Trayvon, not one more’ and ‘No justice, no peace, no racist police,’ according to reports on social media. Here are some tweets, photos and video taken by social media users on the streets of these rallies.
— m_x (@soit_goes) July 14, 2013
David Weigel at Slate just posted a column about “the night without a riot.” Leading up to the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, there were predictions by some — especially some conservative commentators — that riots would break out across the country, similar to those following the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991. Instead, there were mostly peaceful demonstrations and gatherings with posters, bullhorns, chanting and marching. Weigel watched a rally in the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, which was ravaged in April 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. He writes: “The mixed-race crowd nodded along. There was no real agenda or theme, just a silent mutual agreement to listen to people rage.”
You can read the full column on Slate’s Web site: The Night Without a Riot.
The frenzy of response to the George Zimmerman verdict continues on Twitter, with #RipTrayvonMartin, Zimmerman and #TrayvonMartin still trending in the U.S. The number of tweets about Martin and Zimmerman is in the millions.
While some have spoken out in favor of the verdict, the conversation on Twitter has been dominated largely by those angry with the jury’s decision, often using hashtags such as #NoJustice, #JusticeforTrayvon and #hoodiesup.
These angry and dismayed tweets from celebrities like filmmaker Michael Moore, rapper Nicki Minaj and singer-songwriter John Legened are some of the most popular online and have been retweeted thousands of times:
Had a gun-toting Trayvon Martin stalked an unarmed George Zimmerman, and then shot him to death… DO I EVEN NEED TO COMPLETE THIS SENTENCE?
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) July 14, 2013
And our taxes paid for that trial. We just paid to see a murderer walk free after killing an innocent unarmed little boy. #GodBlessAmerica
— Nicki Minaj (@NICKIMINAJ) July 14, 2013
My heart hurts
— John Legend (@johnlegend) July 14, 2013
No justice. No peace. ✌
My colleague Cindy Boren of The Post’s Early Lead blog has been following the tweets of professional athletes responding to news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. The tweets are often deeply emotional. In the past year, many prominent athletes publicly called for Zimmerman to be charged in the death of Trayvon Martin. Last March, Miami Heat players donned gray hoodies — likely breaking the NBA’s “business casual” dress code — and posed for a photo with their heads lowered.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 23, 2012
You can read the latest reactions on the Early Lead: George Zimmerman verdict draws emotional reaction from sports world.
Following a burst of impromptu rallies, protests and vigils on Saturday night, there are a number of more formal events planned for today in cities across the country. Activists are using social media to spread the word, sometimes using the hashtag #hoodiesup. Here’s a running list of some of those events:
6 p.m. Activists plan to gather in Malcolm X Park, also known as Meridian Hill Park, located in Northwest D.C. between 15th and 16th streets, and Euclid Street and Florida Avenue.
8:13 p.m. The Howard University NAACP Chapter will hold a prayer vigil at the campus flagpole.
New York City
2 p.m. Protestors will again meet in Manhattan’s Union Square, where dozens gathered on Saturday night. There also are calls for everyone to meet here at 6 p.m. Sunday.
5 p.m. Borough Hall in Brooklyn.
3 p.m. Protestors plan to gather outside the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford.
Monday at noon. Sanford Pastors Connecting, an alliance of faith-based leaders, will hold a prayer session at New Life Word Church in Sanford.
If you know of additional events, please let me know on Twitter, @wpjenna. I greatly appreciated links.
On Sunday morning, pastors at many churches across the country opined and reflected on the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Some comments were brief, some lengthy. At some churches, members wore hoodie sweatshirts in Martin’s honor and to bring attention to racial stereotypes about young black men who often wear hooded sweatshirts. Martin’s relatives also are “in church this morning, praying and turning to god, a higher authority, to make sense of it all,” a family attorney said on a Sunday morning news show.
At Florida churches, especially those in Sanford where Martin was killed, pastors debated how best to address the news, which likely was on the minds of so many of their members, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Sanford Pastors Connecting — an alliance of faith-based leaders in Sanford and surrounding areas who came together following Martin’s death — plan to hold a prayer session at noon on Monday.
In Maryland’s Prince George’s County, ministers at Ebenezer AME Church wore hoodies. At Brook Hill United Methodist Church in Frederick County, an associate pastor prayed for peace in response to the jury’s ruling.
At All Souls Church Unitarian in Northwest D.C., the Rev. Susan Newman said she considered writing a completely new sermon following the verdict last night. She got into her car and drove around, trying to wrestle her emotions. She continued with her regular sermon, but encouraged congregants to sign a NAACP petition calling upon the Department of Justice to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman, according to my colleague Gillian Brockell who was at the service.
“All our hearts have mixed emotions about the verdict,” said Newman, the acting senior minister.
During church announcements, the Rev. Cathy Rion Starr said many in the congregation were “grieving and full of anger at the injustice of a not-guilty verdict.” During the call to prayer, Starr said: “We are connected to Trayvon Martin’s family.. We are connected to all those who wage violence on others.”
The Howard University NAACP Chapter will hold a prayer vigil on Sunday evening at the campus flagpole in memory of Trayvon Martin, according to a university spokeswoman. The vigil is set to begin at 8:13 p.m.
Trayvon Martin’s relatives cannot believe the verdict, family attorney Benjamin Crump said Sunday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” They don’t fault the prosecutors, Crump said, but they are trying to make sense of the jury’s decision while continuing to grieve the 17-year-old’s death. The family is still trying to decide what to do next. They have set up a foundation in Martin’s memory and pledge to fight senseless gun violence. And the will likely look into filing a civil lawsuit.
But Sunday morning found the family at church, Crump said, where they planned to pray and seek guidance from a higher authority. It’s something that many families are doing today, with one church in Chicago even encouraging members of the congregation to wear hoodies, the same thing Martin was wearing the night of his death.
“They are trying to make sense of it all,” Crump said, according to a transcript of his comments. “They want people to know that they’re going to continue to fight for the legacy of their son, that he had every right to walk home from the 7-Eleven and not expect to be profiled and followed by a strange man. They’re trying to, like many parents, explain to the young people in their family what just happened, what is this about that a child can’t have Skittles and a can of iced tea and walk home and not have a bullet lodged in his heart and his killer not be held accountable for profiling and following him.”
Again and again, Crump said that this case has brought up racial issues that face all African-Americans.
“If you go to any courtroom in America on any given day, you will see the number of African-American males being convicted on not much evidence at all. Not that it’s right, but you will see that nobody in America worries that black men won’t be convicted in court. That is not a big issue,” Crump said. “I would challenge anybody to go to courts all over America, just sit in the back and watch how the justice system plays out when it comes to black males.”
George Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, said at a post-trial news conference that he was “ecstatic” and “very, very happy” that the jury thoughtfully considered the facts of the case and found Zimmerman not guilty. O’Mara then took aim at the non-legal systems that seemed to convict his client before charges were even filed. He said Zimmerman unfairly became the target of a civil rights event — one that he said was not borne out by the facts of the case or Zimmerman’s history.
“If only those who decided to condemn Mr. Zimmerman as quickly and as viciously as they did would have taken just a little bit of time to find out who it was that they were condemning, it would never have happened,” O’Mara said, referring to charges being filed and a trial held. “And it certainly wouldn’t have happened if he was black.”
Another defense attorney, Don West, added: “I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful. …It makes me sad, too, that it took this long, under these circumstances to finally get justice.”
Toward the end of the press conference, O’Mara went after the media for not presenting the full story from the start.
“He was like a patient in an operating table where mad scientists were committing experiments on him, and he had no anesthesia,” O’Mara said. “He didn’t know why he was turned into this monster. But, quite honestly, you guys had a lot to do with it. You just did, because you took a story that was fed to you, and you ran with it. And you ran right over him. And that was horrid to him.”
This is not a new criticism and there has been great debate in the past few weeks about the media’s coverage of this case. The Post’s Erik Wemple, a media critic, wrote late last night: “Indeed the media committed atrocities in covering the encounter between Zimmerman and Martin. …Yet to posit that the media and activists orchestrated a national issue gives too little credit to the nation. Simply put, people across the country were horrified that a 17-year-old kid walking through a neighborhood with candy and a soft drink could have ended up shot to death. They didn’t need the media to tell them to get out and demand Zimmerman’s arrest, or simply to express solidarity with the victim.”
In statements and comments on the Sunday morning news shows, lawmakers and leaders have started to respond to the Florida jury clearing George Zimmerman of all charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin. Here is what some of them are saying, according to my colleague Aaron Blake:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Fox News Sunday, responding to a question asking if Zimmerman should have been prosecuted: “From what I’ve seen and the evidence, I would say no. …The evidence didn’t support prosecution, and the justice department engaged in this, the president engaged in this, and turned it into a political issue that should have been handled exclusively with law and order. So I regret that this all happened. I’m sorry that it was turned into a race issue by the media.”
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “I think it’s right to ask the Justice Department to fully, fully pursue a civil rights violation. Because we all respect the jury system … to lead to a consequence of charges if necessary. But there’s a precedent here that I think is very dangerous – that not only did the jury find Zimmerman innocent even of lesser charges, but you’ve also validated the stand your ground laws that are in other states.”
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Penn.) on “State of the Union”: “I think the notion that the jury’s saying to him that if he did the same thing again today or tomorrow or next week, or someone else did it, that there would be no punishment, is not a good signal to send.”
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) in a statement: “Saturday, the consciousness of our judiciary system was again examined, and the value of life explored. The verdict in the Zimmerman trial cast a spotlight on the real-life consequences of racial profiling and the challenges facing states like Florida, with overly broad ‘stand your ground laws.’ Provocative laws such as this one, embolden citizens to walk the streets and, as we saw in this Florida case, take on the roles of judge, jury and executioner. I urge all Americans to re-evaluate the need for stand your ground laws in light of this verdict. We should take this moment as an opportunity to reignite Dr. King’s dream of a nation where people are not judged by the color of their skin. ‘We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.’”
Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, on ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”: “This is a failure of justice, I don’t think there’s any other way to view it. The judicial system is not perfect. And in this case it has failed and before we get into a conversation of whether the prosecution was flawed, that they should have handled it in a different way, there is a simple reality here. An innocent, young man was walking down a street, was confronted by a stranger with a gun and that innocent, young man was shot. The criminal justice system should be able to deal with situations like that. It didn’t.”
Ben Jealous, the president and CEO of the NAACP, said Sunday morning that he is proud of the teenagers, 20- and 30-somethings who peacefully rallied across the country last night in protest of George Zimmerman’s acquittal.
“We are very pleased that last night we saw no violence in this country that was related to this case,” said Jealous, the youngest-ever national leader of the civil rights organization, speaking on CNN’s State of the Union. “We are very proud of the discipline that this generation of young people has shown. I’m sad to say that my own generation didn’t show such discipline when we are outraged and heartbroken as the verdict in the Rodney King case.”
(HT to my colleague Aaron Blake for sending in this information.)
Here’s a little background: On Feb. 26, 2012, Sanford,Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious person in his gated community, who turned out to be Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student. During a confrontation, Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. More than a month later, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.
His trial started in late June and lasted nearly three weeks. It featured 56 witnesses, 38 for the prosecution and 18 for the defense.
The jury was composed of six women, nearly all of whom have children. None of the jurors or four alternates were black. The group included an unmarried retiree, a nurse who works with Alzheimer’s patients, an animal rescue volunteer who once had a concealed weapons permit and a safety officer who is active in her church. The Associated Press has compiled the five questions that jurors weighed during their deliberations, including determining whose screams for help were captured in a 911 call. After deliberating for more than 16 hours over two days, the jury cleared Zimmerman of all charges.
Earlier this week, my colleague Manuel Roig-Franzia compiled this list of 10 key moments from the trial, including a defense attorney starting his opening statement with a knock-knock joke, the brash testimony from one of Martin’s friends and the use of a gray, foam mannequin to demonstrate what might have happened during the fight between Martin and Zimmerman.
Here are some photos from last night’s impromptu and largely peaceful rallies:
Ahead of the verdict, rapper Young Jeezy posted a letter to Trayvon Martin’s family on his Facebook page that read: “I would like to offer you [sic] strength to you and the family through this entire ordeal. I pray that justice is served and the memory of Trayvon is carried through you and through all of us.”
After the verdict, Jeezy posted a link to the song, “It’s a Cold World: A tribute to Trayvon Martin.” The rapper included this note on the song: “I am in no way shape, form, or fashion am trying to capitalize off of the latest series of events. These are my true feelings and my form of expression about it.”
About 30 minutes after a Florida jury cleared George Zimmerman of all charges related to the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Saturday night, Beyonce took the stage for a concert in Nashville. The stage grew dark with just a few key lights shining as the pop star told her audience: “I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon.”
Beyonce then launched into the chorus of “I Will Always Love You,” according to the Associated Press, and then transitioned into her hit song “Halo.”
The families of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin took to Twitter on Saturday night as Zimmerman was cleared of all charges related to the 2012 shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was walking through a gated community in Sanford, Fla., according to the Associated Press.
The AP reports that Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, tweeted about her deep faith and quoted Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in (cont) http://t.co/enQjZ3bZk2
— Sybrina Fulton (@SybrinaFulton) July 14, 2013
Martin’s teenage brother, Jahvaris Fulton, posted this tweet, according to the AP:
Et tu, America?
— Jahvaris Fulton (@jahvaris_martin) July 14, 2013
Saturday was a day of celebration for the Zimmerman family. The AP reports that the defendant’s brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., tweeted:
Message from Dad: “Our whole family is relieved”. Today… I’m proud to be an American. God Bless America! Thank you for your prayers!
— Robert Zimmerman JR (@rzimmermanjr) July 14, 2013
The NAACP started a petition Saturday night that calls upon the Department of Justice to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. The petition is addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and reads, in part: “[I]t is time for the Department of Justice to act. The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin.”
The NAACP — which stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — is the country’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized civil rights organization. The organization’s main Twitter account, @NAACP, announced early Sunday morning that the petition had already attracted more than 100,000 signatures.
“We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict,” Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, said in a statement issued Saturday. “We stand with Trayvon’s family and we are called to act. We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed.”
President of the NAACP Florida State Conference Adora Obi Nweze added: “We lost a young man due to senseless violence, but justice did not prevail.”