Washington, DC residents react to Zimmerman acquittal with shock and anger

Photo by John Zangas

by Cool Revolution

Within two hours of the announcement of George Zimmerman’s acquittal on July 13, crowds gathered in the U Street neighborhood of Washington, DC to express their outrage at the jury’s verdict in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

A racially diverse group paraded through the thick of DC’s nightlife after midnight, picking up some party-goers along the way. As the march wound its way through Adams Morgan, another Washington hotspot, the crowd swelled to a few hundred people.

“We are here to protest peacefully,” said Damien Baskom, a Washington activist originally from Guyana. “We just want to bring light to this situation. We are asking for true justice.”

While some were angry, feelings of shock and sadness were universal. The verdict came as a surprise to many who viewed Zimmerman as a racist vigilante and his actions as an unprovoked attack on a young African-American man.

“Justice has been denied to Trayvon Martin’s precious loving life,” said Hassan Shabbaz of Washington. “We’re standing up to the injustice that has been committed upon Trayvon Martin.”

Activist Damien Baskom

On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman, on neighborhood watch in a Florida gated community, disobeyed police orders to stay in his car after he reported “suspicious” activity. He shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was returning home from a 7-11 with Skittles and iced tea.

When Martin’s case came to national attention, there was outcry that the boy was the victim of a racially motivated attack. Martin’s hoodie, which he was wearing the night he was killed, came to symbolize the danger young African-Americans face on a daily basis, simply for being Black.

Twenty-two-year-old Xi Felix of Washington believes the verdict reflects of the state of race relations in the U.S. “I can acknowledge progress that has been made particularly in parts of the country, here and further North, but this reinforces that stereotypical behavior is alive and well, and it’s discouraging.”

Damien Baskom also saw Martin’s shooting and the trial verdict as part of a bigger problem in society. “Trayvon Martin’s case is another human rights issue,” he said.

The march concluded in Columbia Heights by 2 a.m. with a large police escort, and there were no incidents of violence. Authorities have feared that a “not guilty” verdict will lead to rioting. Martin’s supporters however fear that the verdict will open the door to more violence against Blacks.

Photo by John Zangas

UPDATE:

As news spread of George Zimmerman’s acquittal on charges on manslaughter and second degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, more Washingtonians upset at the trial’s outcome took to the streets on Sunday evening, July 14.

Several hundred people gathered at Meridian Hill Park in Northwest (also known as Malcolm X Park) in conjunction with planned protests around the country called “Justice for Trayvon” or “Hoodies Up.”

Carrying signs with slogans such as “White Supremacy is Alive and Well in the New Jim Crow,” and “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere,” the protestors marched through Northeast to Howard University. There they listened to speakers and took a long moment of silence,  after which they sang “Amazing Grace.”

Public protests are expected to continue in Washington this week, including a vigil at the White House on Monday, July 15 at 9 pm.