CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- More than 300 people rallied against the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial Sunday, filling Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte with signs, poetry, and music to protest the results of the case.
“My blackness is not an ornament,” said one protester, reciting poetry. “Nothing at all wrong with being black and proud and young and gifted and black!”
“I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore,” said another. The rally was organized by the Charlotte Solidarity Center, which describes itself as a supporter grassroots social justice efforts.
A jury of six women in Sanford, Florida, found Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder Saturday, in the racially-charged case involving the shooting death of an unarmed, black teenager at the hands of an armed neighborhood watch volunteer.
Trayvon Martin was returning from a store in February 2012 with tea and candy when Zimmerman called police about him, saying he looked suspicious.
Vocal critics of Zimmerman’s actions believe he targeted and harassed Martin because of Martin’s race. Zimmerman maintains he shot Martin in self-defense as the two fought on the ground.
Protesters at Marshall Park said they believe Zimmerman got away with murder.
“I was devastated by the return of the verdict,” said the mother of African-American 11-year-old twins, as they watched the speakers. “I was devastated by the fact that we have to address these types of issues in 2013, in this manner.”
She added that she raised her twins, a boy and a girl, not to be fearful of the color of their skin. She said she’s never warned them to act a certain way – but that might have to change.
“It's clear and apparent I have to give them a list of instructions about how you have to behave, how you have to maneuver as an African- American in America,” she said.
A Charlotte defense attorney, however, said the jury’s decision was within the law.
“According to the law, it was the right verdict,” said Adam Seifer of SeiferFlatow law firm. Seifer said prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to prove Zimmerman acted with malice, a requirement for a second-degree murder conviction.
Zimmerman also had the right to defend himself once he was pinned down, if he feared grave bodily danger or death, said Seifer.
“You can use force to dispel the attacker who was on you, even if the attacker was the initial victim,” he said.
In other words, it didn’t matter if Zimmerman initiated the confrontation. Once he became the victim of Martin’s return aggression and saw no escape from it, Zimmerman was the victim, said Seifer.
Seifer said with more evidence or more witnesses, the outcome of the Zimmerman case may have been different. But without it, there wasn’t much the state could do.
Zimmerman was the sole surviving witness to the confrontation, and wouldn’t incriminate himself, said Seifer. And police and jurors found his account believable.
The mother of the twins says, try explaining that to your children.
“I'm being forced to have those conversations I don't want to have that break my heart,” she said. “It breaks my heart that it has to be done in 2013.”