PITTSBURGH - More than 200 people gathered in the Hill District and Shadyside on Sunday to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin as anger over the Florida jury verdict spread to cities nationwide.
“It could have been anybody, black or white,” Rahim Jones, 42, of East Liberty said about the racially charged killing in February 2012 and Saturday's verdict. Jones was among about 75 people who gathered at Mellon Park about 3 p.m. to plan a larger rally that began three hours later at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
Demonstrators remained in the street near the historic corner until shortly after 11 p.m., when the final two dozen left. Pittsburgh police initially threatened to arrest people who blocked traffic, then allowed dozens to remain on Centre Avenue.
“We don't want to be the city that comes off disrespecting (Martin's) memory,” said Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, who knelt in the street and spoke quietly to protesters who were screaming and saying they would not leave.
Protester Bekezela Mguni, 28, of Wilkinsburg said the organizers plan another event for Wednesday at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown.
Zimmerman, 29, a neighborhood watch volunteer, said he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense. Because Martin was black and unarmed, many people said during demonstrations since the acquittal that the jury's decision shows racism remains a problem.
“America has not grown at all,” said Anastasia Carrington-Peterson, 16, of Beltzhoover. “We have not gotten anywhere we think we have.”
The crowd at Freedom Corner, which included a mix of races, carried signs and chanted, “I am Trayvon Martin.”
“The system is not working,” said Myra Kiselova, 28, of Garfield. “It's clearly not working. It's dividing us.”
Organizers said they wanted the rally to unite people.
Across the state, about 700 people marched peacefully through Center City Philadelphia, chanting Martin's name as they walked from Love Park to the Liberty Bell and back. It was a scene repeated in dozens of cities.
At Manhattan's Middle Collegiate Church, many congregants wore hooded sweatshirts — the same thing Martin was wearing the night he was shot. Hoodie-clad Jessica Nacinovich said she could only feel disappointment and sadness about the verdict.
“I'm sure jurors did what they felt was right in accordance with the law, but maybe the law is wrong, maybe society is wrong. There's a lot that needs fixing,” she said.
This article was written by Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE.