Jim Cummings sat cross-legged shortly after daybreak, perched atop the concrete base of a light standard outside Philadelphia’s Municipal Services building - one of a handful of people attending a vigil overnight for Trayvon Martin in wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman.
Cummings, who had been at the site since 2 a.m., said people had attended in small groups throughout the night, prompted by the social networking efforts of Occupy Philadelphia.
“This vigil will run 17 hours for each year of his (Martin’s) life,” said Cummings, 53, of West Philadelphia. He said people began gathering about 11:30 p.m. – an hour or so after the verdict.
He said a larger rally is expected at Love Park at 6 tonight.
Cummings was one of hundreds who gathered across the county and locally in what were mostly peaceful gatherings to protest the verdict.
Zimmerman, 29, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was cleared by a jury of six women Saturday night of all charges in the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Martin’s death prompted a nationwide debate about racial profiling, self-defense as it relates to gun laws, and equal justice.
Zimmerman had faced second-degree murder or manslaughter charges. Jurors took 16 hours to reach a verdict in the three-week long trial.
The only violence in reaction to the verdict occurred in Oakland, Calif. Police there said about 100 protesters gathered. Some broke windows on businesses and started small fires in the streets, according to the Associated Press. That Oakland crowd dispersed about 2 a.m. without any arrests. However, a police squad car was vandalized and police had to form a line to block the protesters' path.
In Nashville, Beyonce called for a moment of silence for Martin during a concert just hours after the acquittal. The pop star took a moment to honor the teen during her concert Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
After asking the crowd to be silent for a moment, she sang the chorus of "I Will Always Love You," a song written by country music star Dolly Parton and brought to a global audience by the late Whitney Houston, before transitioning into her hit "Halo."
And in Chicago, protesters organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Illinois Campaign to End New Jim Crow groups marched shouting, “No justice, no peace.” The event was largely peaceful.
There were no reports of large protests in Florida where the case was tried.
Likewise, Philadelphia police said they had no incidents overnight. A random sampling of about a dozen people near City Hall this morning showed that most were surprised by the verdict. But few said they followed the case that closely.
Indeed, Cummings – the Occupy protester - said he did not follow the case turn-by-turn. But, he felt that the verdict, “shows the lives of young black men are considered worthless in this country.”
Shawntique Coleman, a 39-year-old nurse from North Philadelphia, said she walked over to the Occupy vigil after receiving cancer treatment at Hahenamn University Hospital.
“It is sad that use human beings cannot value life,” Coleman said. “These civilians with guns have arsenals ... What kind of man is he (Zimmerman)? If someone did that to his child, he would go off, wouldn’t he? The jury was very wrong on this. But I don’t blame anybody but the man who pulled that trigger.”
Ella Alonso, 19, of York, Pa., was in town with her friend, Kelsey Groff, 20, also of York, for the Color Me Rad 5k race. The two were walking up Market Street in a hurry to catch the start.
Alonso was one of the few who said she wasn’t surprised at the verdict, but said she felt the “whole thing was wrong” in reference to the Martin shooting.
“I think America is overreacting,” Alonso said. But she also felt the, “jury didn’t do their job for the good.”
Groff said she didn’t follow the case closely enough to have a strong opinion.
But Chris Davila, 40, and Joan Golden, 52, both of Philadelphia, did have strong opinions. The two were was waiting for a SEPTA bus at 13th and Market Streets, on their way to work.
“It’s a disgrace,” Davila said of the verdict. “He should go to jail for the rest of his life.”
Golden shared similar sentiments and found the verdict shocking.
“I definitely thought he was going to get something,” Golden said. “For him to just walk out of court is ridiculous.”
One man, who did not want to give his name, had a more muted response.
“I might not like what happened,” he said, in reference to the shooting, “but I respect the jurors. I’m sure they made the best decision based on all the facts.”