More than 100 demonstrators gathered in Union Square this afternoon in response to the acquittal in the Trayvon Martin shooting case, and to demand that the U.S. Department Of Justice investigate the Florida killing.
At around 10 p.m. Saturday, a jury of six women in Florida announced that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in connection with Martin's death.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, admitted he shot the unarmed 17-year-old but claimed it was in self-defense.
The jury had listened to more than 50 witnesses and some dramatic closing arguments, and had reasonable doubt that the shooting amounted to a criminal act.
The case has sparked some heated discussion about race relations, as Zimmerman is a white and Hispanic man and Martin was an African-American teenager.
Sunday's protest at Union Square attracted a line-up of speakers and dozens of people who marched around the square, carrying signs with statements like "The whole system is guilty" and chanting slogans like "No justice, no peace."
The demonstration was peaceful through the afternoon, but there was still a heavy police presence nearby.
While none of the protesters knew Martin, they said the not guilty verdict affected them very personally and they shared feelings of fear, anger and frustration.
"I was disgusted. I felt like I didn't belong in this country. I felt like, as a black woman, I'm afraid to have a son," said one protester.
"Young black males are in danger and we have to stand up for young black men. I'm so tired of the violence against young black men. It has to stop. We have to be unified and we have to stand up against this oppression," said another demonstrator. "I'm so tired of it, I'm tired of trying to blend in to the middle class. We have to stand up for young black males."
Bloomberg's Advocacy Group To Take On Florida Gun Laws
In a Sunday statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the "tragic case" of Trayvon Martin shows how "shoot first" gun laws in Florida and other states "can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns."
He says his advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, will "shine a light on the impact of 'shoot first' laws and work to eliminate them, in Florida and wherever they have been passed. We will continue that work – and the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed child attempting to walk home from the store, will continue to drive our efforts."
President Barack Obama also released a statement on the case Sunday, calling for Americans to respect the jury's statement, saying, "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. 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. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin."
The verdict dominated discussion on the Sunday political talk shows.
Civil rights leaders and other politicians called the verdict sad and a failure of justice. The Reverend Al Sharpton said he plans to ask the U.S. Department Of Justice to investigate the case.
"We now have a position on the books in the state of Florida, where an unarmed teenager who committed no crime can be killed, and the killer can say self-defense. That is dangerous, that is an atrocity," Sharpton said on NBC's "Meet The Press."
"It's the best system in the world, bar none. The jury system is what we have to rely upon, but in this case it failed," former Governor Eliot Spitzer, a candidate for city comptroller, said on ABC's "This Week."
Other political leaders said the jury had deliberated and reached an appropriate conclusion.
"We said from day one that we were seeking justice when the demonstrations came to the City of Sanford, that they wanted to sit in front of a jury of his peers. That's what's taken place," Mayor Jeff Triplett of Sanford, Fla. said on NBC's "Meet The Press."
"If the rule is that you've got to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There were plenty of reasonable doubts there," Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, said on ABC's "This Week."
Martin's parents, meanwhile, did not speak after the verdict, but took to Twitter to thank supporters.
Trayvon Martin's father Tracy posted, "Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY."
The mother of Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton, posted, "Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have."
Zimmerman's brother and lawyer expressed their relief, but were careful to mention Martin and his family.
The Martin family also has the option of suing Zimmerman in civil court for wrongful death. By Sunday afternoon, it was not known if the family would pursue that.