News / USA

Obama Urges Calm in Wake of Zimmerman Verdict

Zimmerman Shooting Verdict Prompts Pointed Reactions

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  • Jaylen Reese, 12, of Atlanta, marches during a protest of George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, Atlanta, Georgia, July 15, 2013.
  • Protesters march during a demonstration in reaction to the acquittal of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, Baltimore, Maryland, July 15, 2013.
  • Police confront a crowd of demonstrators on the Interstate 10 freeway as they protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin trial, Los Angeles, California July 14, 2013.
  • A woman yells slogans as demonstrators demand justice for Trayvon Martin while marching to Times Square from New York's Union Square, July 14, 2013.
  • Throngs of marches gather in Times Square to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman, New York, July 14, 2013.
  • Demonstrators march through the Lower East Side in New York holding a cut-out of Trayvon Martin during a protest against the acquittal of George Zimmerman, July 14, 2013.
  • Protesters converge on Union Square for a protest against the acquittal of George Zimmerman, New York, July 14, 2013.
  • A crowd begins a short march for Trayvon Martin in Miami, Florida, July 14, 2013.
  • People hold up newspapers and their clinched fists at a gathering to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman, Newark, New Jersey, July 14, 2013.
  • A man holds newspapers as another lies on the street, while a large crowd gathers at an intersection to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman, Newark, New Jersey, July 14, 2013.

Zimmerman Shooting Verdict Prompts Pointed Reactions

VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama appealed for calm on Sunday, after a Florida jury acquitted a volunteer neighborhood patrolman of murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.

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

The acquittal of watchman 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 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.

Watch: related video report by Kane Farabaugh

Protests, Rallies Staged Nationwide in Wake of Zimmerman Verdicti
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July 15, 2013 10:27 AM
Almost immediately after the verdict came down acquitting George Zimmerman of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, people used social media and public rallies to express their opinion of the outcome. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more from Chicago, Illinois.

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