After a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin Saturday night, people took to the streets across the country in the thousands, according to AP, “chanting, praying and fighting tears.”

Oakland Police watches the crowd protesting the George Zimmerman verdict July 13 after other police officers emptied a fire extinguisher but failed to put out a trashcan fire. (Photo: Alex Emslie/KQED)
Oakland police officer watches the crowd protesting the George Zimmerman verdict July 13 after other officers emptied a fire extinguisher but failed to put out a trashcan fire. (Photo: Alex Emslie/KQED)

“Rallies on Sunday were largely peaceful as demonstrators voiced their support for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s family and decried the verdict. Police in Los Angeles said they arrested six people, mostly for failure to disperse, after about 80 protesters gathered in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and an unlawful assembly was declared. New York police said at least a dozen people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges during a rally in Times Square.”

In the Bay Area, about 50 demonstrators congregated in front of City Hall Sunday night, the Bay Area News Group reported. In San Francisco Saturday night, after the verdict was announced, “demonstrators marched through the Mission District after gathering at the 24th Street Mission BART Station,” the Chronicle wrote. “Hundreds marched down Valencia Street, chanting ‘Justice for Trayvon Martin.’ The crowd dispersed peacefully ….”

Not so in Oakland. The Bay Area News Group wrote

Protesters beat one man in a Broadway doorway near Frank H. Ogawa Plaza until other protesters ended the skirmish. The man was helped to his feet and did not appear seriously injured.

Other protesters took out their frustration on buildings. Sears, the Oakland Tribune, several banks and at least two restaurants all had windows broken. A BART police car was vandalized, and several garbage bins were overturned and set ablaze. Police made no arrests during the protest, which drew about 100 people.

KQED’s Alex Emslie covered that protest in Downtown Oakland. He said after the initial march, masked protesters walked down both sides of the streets smashing every window on several blocks. One of the businesses hit was Dogwood bar. “This isn’t productive,” said the bar’s manager, Issa Eismont. “It’s not productive at all. It hurts Oakland. It makes us look bad. It gives us a bad reputation.”

Emslie said there was no visible police presence for most of the protest, and that during the window smashing, police were out of sight.

On Sunday, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan addressed the reaction to the verdict. From Quan’s statement:

Trayvon’s tragic death and the subsequent trial have raised powerful, incredibly difficult issues that affect us all. Racial profiling in particular is an ongoing problem in our society and it is absolutely unacceptable, here in Oakland and across the world.

Oakland is a community that grapples with many of these issues. I know many of us are living with hard emotions as we continue working toward solutions in the wake of the verdict.

A small group of people gathered in downtown Oakland last night. Sadly, some of them dishonored the memory of Trayvon by engaging in violent activities that hurt our growing economy and endangered people. This is unacceptable as well. We will not tolerate violence in our city.

Meanwhile, protesters expressed anger, sadness and resignation.

“I’m not surprised with the acquittal,” Lisa Evans told Emslie. “I’m extremely disappointed and I’m very frustrated and I’m very angry, but I don’t think I’m particularly surprised, which is sad.”

“This country’s in a state of emergency right now,” said Preston Walker. “We’re really mourning Trayvon now. Because it’s like he died last year, but it’s like today is the day of his homecoming. His funeral is today, with that verdict.”

“This verdict just represents what’s been going on in this country for years, for hundreds of years,” said Sarai Bordeaux.  “Case after case after case after case. Emett Till, Oscar Grant, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. All of our black men …. Of course it sends a message that this country does not care what happens to black and brown people.”

And from Mubarak Ahmad: “They don’t have to look way in Florida. Look at Oakland. Look at the Alan Blueford shooting…. Yesterday was the opening of Oscar Grant, Fruitvale.”

He wasn’t the only one to make the connection between Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant. As reported on Deadline.com Saturday, Michael B. Jordan, who played Grant in “Fruitvale Station,” said this at a Q&A after a screening of the film in LA Saturday night:

I want to hear your questions tonight and answer them. But if you could keep it away from Trayvon, I think my opinion on that is not going to help anybody right now.”

My heart hurts so bad right now. I wasn’t going to come after I found out about George Zimmerman getting acquitted. It broke me up. That’s why I think this film means so much, because it keeps happening again and again. [We must] learn how to treat each other better and stop judging one another just because we’re different. It’s not just a black and white thing, it’s a people thing. It’s the only way that things are going to take the necessary steps to move in the right direction so things can get better because I don’t think it’s ever gonna stop, but something’s gotta f*****g change.

Finally, this incredible item out of Hayward on Saturday. Lester Chambers of the legendary Chambers Brothers was attacked on stage after dedicating a song to Trayvon Martin. From Bay Area News Group:

A woman was arrested Saturday after allegedly jumping on stage at a music festival and attacking a legendary musician after he dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin, according to police and eyewitnesses.

The woman, who police identified as 43-year-old Dinalynn Andrews Potter of Barstow, apparently yelled, “it’s all your fault” before shoving 73-year-old Lester Chambers, his family said Sunday.

“She had a crazed look in her eye,” said Kurt Kangas, a friend of Chambers who ran to his aid. “I saw the devil there.”

Chambers was performing at the Hayward Russell City Blues Festival downtown when around 5:15 p.m. he dedicated Curtis Mayfield’s hit “People Get Ready” to Martin, the 17-year-old shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Full story

Potter was booked by Hayward police on suspicion of battery.

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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