Protesters block LA streets over Zimmerman
15 July 2013, 13:39
New York – The mayor of Los Angeles called for peace as groups of protesters took to the streets to protest against the acquittal of neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman, a day after his trial for killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin ended in Florida, reports said on Monday.
"Nonviolence is a powerful & just weapon..It is a sword that heals." Eric Garcetti tweeted as protesters came out in numbers.
The Los Angeles Times reported that The LAPD called a citywide tactical alert after demonstrators blocked traffic on the 10 Freeway in the Mid-City area on Sunday evening. The freeway has since reopened.
Police emphasised that most of the protesters were peaceful. But there have been several splinter groups from the main protest that have been more aggressive, officials said.
The paper also cited witnesses saying some demonstrators were holding a sit-in on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Thousands also protested in New York where many brandished signs bearing a portrait of Martin and some, despite sweltering July heat, wore "hoodie" sweatshirts, as the 17-year-old did the night he was killed in February 2012.
'The people say guilty'
The protesters began gathering in lower Manhattan's Union Square in early afternoon. A procession later began marching from the square north on 6th Avenue, under heavy police watch, and reached Times Square.
By evening, there were several thousand marching.
"The people say guilty," chanted demonstrators - some of whom came with their children.
"I am appalled," said Carli VanVoorhis, a 21-year-old hairdresser.
'I'm black. Please don't shoot'
"The man was armed, the kid was not, and the man with the gun got away," she said. "If we say it was not a racial issue, we would be lying."
Many in the crowd - who also chanted "no justice, no peace" - were black, but there were whites and Hispanics present as well.
One sign urged: "Jail racist killers, not black youth," while many others declared "We are all Trayvon. The whole damn system is guilty."
At least one marcher wore a t-shirt proclaiming "I'm black. Please don't shoot?"
"We have a big problem with race, and another problem is guns," said one speaker, Rodney Rodriguez.
"If Zimmerman didn't have a gun, he couldn't have killed Trayvon Martin."
Another protester, Derreck Wilson, aged 46, said the group had come "to say in a peaceful way why we are angry. We are angry, scared and anxious".
"It's cathartic," he said.
"We all have the same desires. I want to be able to have my son to come home," added Wilson, who came to the protest from the traditionally African-American neighbourhood of Harlem.
Rhada Blank also came from Harlem with friends.
When the verdict was announced, she said she thought about leaving the United States permanently.
"I was sick to my stomach when I heard the verdict, I felt ashamed," she said. "I don't feel good about being American today. I think we have a lot of work to do."
"As far as people think we've gone, with the decision of electing [President Barack] Obama, this verdict shows we haven't moved beyond race," said the former teacher who now writes for the theatre.
"People have not moved beyond their fears," she lamented. "That decision echoed what many people are feeling in the country. There is a fear of the black male."
The case has, since the beginning, pitted those who think the 29-year-old neighborhood watchman - son of a white father and a Peruvian mother - killed Martin in self-defence, and those who think it was a murder sparked by racist assumptions.
The killing has also resonated with those who call for stricter gun laws, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who issued a statement on Sunday against what he called "shoot-first laws".
"Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known. But one fact has long been crystal clear: 'Shoot first' laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns," Bloomberg said, reiterating his calls for eliminating the statues.
"The tragic death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed child attempting to walk home from the store, will continue to drive our efforts," Bloomberg added.