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Obama Calls for Calm After Zimmerman Verdict

U.S. President Barack Obama has appealed for calm, as protesters gather in response to a Florida jury's acquittal of a volunteer neighborhood patrolman accused of murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.

In a written statement, Mr. Obama has called the death of Trayvon Martin a tragedy -- for his family and for America. But in urging quiet reflection, he said Sunday that "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

Meanwhile, the acquittal of George Zimmerman late Saturday by a six-woman jury dominated television news and the Internet on Sunday, sparking community protests and raising the national debate about race and crime fighting in America.

Protesters gathered in New York, Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas such as Boston and San Francisco. The demonstrators remained peaceful, but called for justice in the face of what they saw as a race-based verdict. Some protests continued into the night and early Monday, with demonstrators blocking a major highway in Los Angeles for a half hour.

The 17-year-old Martin - an African American - was killed last year in a struggle with armed community watchman Zimmerman, who is Hispanic. The death left many Americans saying Martin was targeted because he was black and walking at night in a gated, largely white community.

The U.S. Justice Department said Sunday it is evaluating evidence in the case to determine whether to pursue prosecution of Zimmerman under federal statutes.

State Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda says he was disappointed by the ruling, but will respect the jury's decision.

Immediately after the verdict, Martin's supporters - including his family members - took to social media to express their displeasure with the decision. Spontaneous protests sprang up in several cities, including thousands of kilometers away from Florida in San Francisco.

Zimmerman's defense lawyer, Mark O'Mara, said he was ecstatic with the results.

"George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense. I'm glad that the jury saw it that way."

Zimmerman was driving in his neighborhood February 26, 2012 when he saw Martin and called police. Zimmerman - a neighborhood volunteer - got out of his vehicle and followed Martin. A confrontation and struggle followed, ending with Zimmerman shooting Martin.

The case made national news after it was revealed that Zimmerman was not charged for more than six weeks after the shooting, because police did not contest his claim that he shot Martin in self-defense.

The prosecution said Zimmerman profiled the teen and followed him because he assumed Martin was intent on making trouble. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense once he and Martin entered into a struggle, with Martin banging Zimmerman's head against the concrete pavement.

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