Hundreds rallied in downtown Philadelphia over the weekend, following a Florida jury’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Vigils and protests started in Philadelphia and elsewhere within hours of Saturday night’s verdict.
Various groups including Free the Streets, the African Redemption Church and Occupy Philly were involved locally, but the buzz on social media appeared to have drawn people out to the events.
By late Sunday afternoon, hundreds had convened in Love Park. They then marched down Market Street to the Liberty Bell, with many returning to the park for more speakers.
Abdul-Kadir Islam, a teacher, held a homemade sign in Love Park with the phrase, “No Justice, No Peace,” on it, many protesters chanted it throughout the day.
“Even though it says ‘no peace,’ you can still find some way to create peace out of this lack of justice in the system,” said Islam.
Standing next to him was Bryheem Crowder, a self-described artist and activist who was on the verge of tears.
“For myself and for my people — and when I say ‘my people’ I mean humanity — we’re let down,” said Crowder. “We’re let down. And it’s up to us to bring ourselves back up.”
For Rachel Jackson, a student at Drexel University holding an “I am Trayvon Martin” sign, the gathering was a chance for people to express their frustration with the ruling and what they saw as a flawed justice system. Trayvon Martin could have been a sibling, a friend or even her, she said.
“I’m angry. I’m upset. I feel like it’s racism that still exists and people don’t acknowledge it,” said Jackson. “And it’s shown during times like this, during his case.”
An activist who goes by the name “Forty” was one of many who took the mic. He said while people are hurt, the verdict has been an awakening that he hopes will lead to peaceful and constructive changes.
“Hopefully we can have a positive outlook and positive things can come of this,” he said. “Because it’s a very terrible day here in America, a very terrible day.”
Others called for future rallies, economic boycotts, volunteering and working to working the community.
Earlier in the day, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter issued a statement saying he was saddened by the verdict but hoped everyone remained calm.
“…As a parent, I can’t begin to know what Trayvon’s proud and dignified parents are feeling right now, but I pray for them in this dark hour. And I urge everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers…We must all commit ourselves to eliminating the conditions in our community that cause too many people to see young African American males as “threats” instead of seeing the promise within each child…”