Zimmerman verdict: Protesters break windows, start fires in Oakland
SAN FRANCISCO — Protesters angered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman held largely peaceful demonstrations in three California cities, but broke windows and started small street fires Oakland, police said.
The gatherings Saturday night ranged from a few dozen to a couple hundred people turning out to protest the verdict in the Florida courtroom over the death of Trayvon Martin, and police said some of the demonstrations continued into the early hours Sunday.
The Oakland police dispatch office said about 100 people protested, with some in the crowd breaking windows on businesses and starting small fires in the streets. As the protest wound down with the crowd dispersing, the office said that as of 2 a.m. PDT it had no word of any arrests.
Local media reports said some Oakland marchers vandalized a police squad car and police formed a line to block the protesters’ path.
Following his acquittal on all charges in the fatal shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman will spend no time behind bars.
But that’s about the only certainty in the former neighborhood watch volunteer’s immediate future.
The Department of Justice has announced it will look into the case, which could lead to criminal civil rights charges, and Zimmerman may also face civil lawsuits from Martin’s family.
He could also potentially make a lot of money by writing a book or from a lawsuit he filed last year against a major television network for allegedly editing his 911 call to police to make it sound like he was racist.
For the moment, however, veteran publicists say Zimmerman’s options are limited.
The case and his trial have become — for some — a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the country’s justice system, and with race relations in America today.
The six-member jury’s not-guilty verdict late Saturday prompted a wave of anger among civil rights leaders and others, and protests have erupted across the country. Image handlers say Zimmerman needs to take that anger, and potential death threats, seriously.
“I have one short piece of advice for him,” said Jonathan Bernstein, president of the Southern California-based Bernstein Crisis Management Inc.
Hiding is not an unfamiliar feeling for Zimmerman, whose last known appearance in public was on Feb. 26, 2012, the night of the shooting: He was headed to Target to do his weekly grocery shopping before he encountered Martin.
Zimmerman has been living a hermit’s life since then and during the months leading up to his highly publicized trial. And now, despite the acquittal, it is unlikely that he will ever be able to do something as mundane as grocery shopping — at least not unaccompanied — for a very long time.
The Oakland Tribune said some windows on the newspaper’s downtown offices were broken, and footage from a television helicopter show people attempting to start fires in the street and spray painting anti-police graffiti.
Protesters also reportedly burned an American and a California state flag and spray painted Alameda County’s Davidson courthouse.
The Oakland demonstration followed a raucous but largely peaceful one in San Francisco. Police say officers escorted demonstrators as they marched on the city’s Mission District. The group was dispersed by 10 p.m.
The verdict also sparked protests in Los Angeles, where demonstrators gathered in Leimert Park, the city’s historically black neighborhood.
Police said that about 200 protesters gathered for what they termed a peaceful vigil. City News Service said that at one point a smaller group stopped an Expo Line train as police urged them to return to the nearby park. But police couldn’t immedifately confirm that report.
Lt. Andy Neiman of the LAPD Media Relations Department said another group of 50 to 100 demonstrators started marching around midnight.
“There was a period where crowds were running among vehicles, but police dissuaded them,” he said.
Neiman said he knew of no arrests.
Officials said police called in officers from around the city to keep a watch on demonstrators.
More than 40 people gathered at Sacramento City Hall, and the Sacramento Bee reported protesters chanted: “What do we want? Justice. When do you we want it? Now. For who? Trayvon.”
A banner behind speakers read, “No justice, no peace!”
Leaders of Denver’s African American community were also planning a gathering to protest the aquittal, according to a Denver Post report Sunday.
“This is a situation where our community doesn’t want to sit quiet and be still in the face of this situation,” Brother Jeff Fard, founder of Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center in the Five Points neighborhood told the Post.
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