Zimmerman verdict spawns protests across country

CNN Wire Service

If the George Zimmerman murder trial didn’t polarize America enough, the verdict certainly did.

While supporters of Zimmerman’s acquittal kept largely quiet after the weekend decision, outraged protesters poured into the streets across the country Sunday and early Monday

While the vast majority of protests were peaceful, parts of Los Angeles grew tense.

Some protesters hurled flashlight batteries, rocks and chunks of concrete toward police, Los Angeles police spokesman Andrew Smith said. Police responded by shooting about a half dozen bean bags at protesters.

“LAPD is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” Smith said Sunday night. “We hope everyone can exercise their First Amendment right to free speech, then get tired and go home.”

Some demonstrators continued their efforts into Monday morning. At least one person was arrested, Smith said.

Across the country

Thousands also rallied in San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Detroit, New York and other cities.

In New York, demonstrators marched across Manhattan and packed Times Square.

“This is what democracy looks like,” they chanted.

In Florida, just steps away from the courthouse where a jury acquitted Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, demonstrators vowed that their fight wasn’t over.

“Nationwide protest to demand justice,” protesters chanted in Sanford, Florida.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for protests to continue, and to remain peaceful.

“There will be protests, but they must be carried out with dignity and discipline,” he told CNN’s “New Day.”

“What will happen if there, in fact, are riots, it gives sympathy to Zimmerman, and discredits Trayvon. Trayvon deserves sympathy. Zimmerman and his school of thought does not.”

Racial undertones

Many of the protests, including large gatherings in New York and Los Angeles, drew demonstrators from a wide variety of races. But many expressed the same belief — that Martin’s death was spurred by racial profiling, and that Zimmerman’s acquittal leaves no one accountable.

“Only white life is protected in America,” one protester in Washington shouted Sunday.

Others chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Trayvon was murdered” as they marched, freelance photographer Michael Kandel told CNN’s iReport.

The atmosphere was tense as demonstrators demanded that the government investigate further, Kandel said.

“They believe that this is a civil rights issue that must become the topic of a national conversation in the coming days,” he said. “They did not believe justice had been served.”

Zimmerman, his family and their supporters have denied allegations of racism and argued that civil rights groups are being incendiary without facts to back up their claims.

Some demonstrators in Denver, Baltimore and Detroit wore hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin wore when he was killed.

Pushing for peace

President Barack Obama called for peace Sunday and acknowledged the Zimmerman case has stirred strong emotions.

“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,” Obama said.

“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,” he said.

Some applauded the jury for siding with the neighborhood watch volunteer’s claims that he shot the teen in self-defense. Others said prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Critics of the verdict like Terri Weems said the trial was a referendum on race that confirmed what they knew all along.

“That’s our society,” Weems said as she headed into church in Washington on Sunday. “We expected not to be given justice. We haven’t been dealt justice all this time. … It’s very disheartening.”

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the largely peaceful protests were a positive sign.

“I think we should, frankly, right now be celebrating the fact that we’ve seen a generation of young people respond by using our system, raising their voices, but not using their fists,” he said.

CNN’s Jake Carpenter, Catherine E. Shoichet, Alan Duke and Jareen Imam contributed to this report.