Late Saturday night, a Florida jury cleared George Zimmerman of all charges in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Immediately following the verdict, attorneys for the prosecution and the defense held press conferences, with prosecutors expressing their disappointment and solidarity with the Martin family, while Zimmerman’s team celebrated their victory. “Things would have been different for George Zimmerman if he was black for this reason: he would never have been charged with a crime,” said defense lawyer Mark O’Mara at one point. Shortly after that, Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, went on CNN, where he concluded that America has to “grow” from the trial, though the comments that followed are unlikely to help in that process. “I want to know what makes people angry enough to attack someone the way that Trayvon Martin did. I want to know if it is true, and I don’t know if it’s true, that Trayvon Martin was looking to procure firearms, was growing marijuana plants,” he said. “I want to know that every minor, high-schooler, that would be reaching out in some way for help, and they may feel it’s by procuring firearms or whatever they may be doing, that they have some kind of help.”
He went on to say that his brother “is going to be looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life” because “there are people that would want to take the law into their own hands as they perceive it, or be vigilantes in some sense.” Indeed.
Many people took to the streets on Saturday night to voice their opposition to the verdict, but the gatherings were largely peaceful. In Washington, D.C., protesters marched through Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights chanting “No justice, no peace” and “Trayvon, Trayvon.” Later, they passed around a bullhorn, which speakers used to urge listeners “to cling together in a fight for justice and against bigotry.” Similar demonstrations took place near Chicago’s Daley Plaza and in Union Square in New York, where protesters carried lit candles in paper cups and signs that read “Emmett Till 1955. Trayvon Martin 2013.” In California, demonstrations formed in LA, San Francisco, and Oakland. Local media outlets reported that some in the Oakland crowd broke windows, started small fires, and vandalized a police car, but no arrests were made. Over in Nashville, Beyoncé interrupted her concert, which began about a half hour after the verdict was released, to “have a moment of silence for Trayvon.” (She followed the break by singing the chorus of “I Will Always Love You.”)
So, what’s next? NAACP President Ben Jealous, who said he was “outraged” and “heartbroken” over the verdict, told CNN’s Candy Crowley that he had already spoken to “senior members” of Attorney General Eric Holder’s team about the possibility of a Department of Justice civil-rights case against Zimmerman. (Already, 115,000 people have signed a petition urging Holder to open an investigation.) And the Martin family is likely to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If that happens, Zimmerman would be made to testify under oath, and he would have to pay damages if attorneys show he acted with “simple negligence” in Martin’s death. It seems that, as Al Sharpton put it on Friday night, Zimmerman’s acquittal was “only the first round in the pursuit of justice.”