"Don't worry about more riots," read a sign. "Worry about more Zimmermans."
It was one of many pointed poster messages as roughly 200 people gathered at a rally in Downtown Miami Sunday evening in response to the acquittal of self-appointed Sanford neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin. Jurors in the case declined to find Zimmerman guilty on either second degree murder or manslaughter charges late Saturday, a decision that prompted demonstrations across the nation from New York to Oakland.
The verdict hit especially hard in Miami, where Martin attended Dr. Krop High School. Though rain dampened demonstration Saturday night, the verdict was addressed at churches across the city Sunday morning.
"It goes without question how disappointed the family of Trayvon Martin is, how disappointed his church family is, how disappointed this community is," said pastor Arthur Jackson Sunday morning at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, where Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton is a member, according to NBC6.
Outside services, relatives of the slain teen urged calm. "That's our justice system... Be peaceful, the verdict is in and be peaceful about what it is," said cousin Milton Felton. "Conduct yourself accordingly."
Protestors did just that as they gathered for the vigil at 6 p.m. at the Torch of Friendship in Bayfront Park, with hundreds carrying signs. Though county officials had selected two suburban parks to serve as "first amendment zones," they were largely ignored in favor of this more visible opportunity downtown. Seventy-six year-old demonstrator Carol Reitner told the Associated Press she had learned of the event through her church: "I was really devastated. It's really hard to believe that someone can take the life of someone else and walk out of court free."