The Reverend Al Sharpton, the veteran civil rights leader, called for a “Justice for Trayvon National Day of Action” on Saturday and said protests had been planned in more than 100 cities across America.
Police in California made several arrests on Monday evening as demonstrations continued against the acquittal of neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin following an altercation in a gated Florida housing community in February last year.
The call for action followed the admission by one female juror that three of her fellow members were initially inclined to convict Mr Zimmerman. The woman, known only as Juror B-37, offered a glimpse behind the scenes of the jury’s deliberations in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper . She explained how, after 16 hours of discussion, the six women came to the conclusion that Mr Zimmerman ought to be acquitted of the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon, whom he claimed to have shot in self-defence.
“There was a couple of them in there that wanted to find him guilty of something,” she said. “And after hours and hours and hours of deliberating over the law, and reading it over and over and over again, we just decided there’s no other way or place to go [but acquittal].”
Juror B-37 is a white, middle-aged chiropractor from Seminole County in Florida, where the shooting and subsequent trial took place. She and her husband, a lawyer, have two grown-up children. In the first poll of the six jurors, she explained, three favoured finding Mr Zimmerman not guilty, two voted for manslaughter and one for second-degree murder. She said that the jury worked hard to reach a verdict and cried over the decision. “I want people to know that we put everything into it,” she said. “We thought about it over and over.”
Finally, however, they could find Mr Zimmerman guilty of nothing but poor judgement. The neighbourhood watch volunteer followed Trayvon on the night of the killing in February 2012, apparently believing him to be a criminal; the two had an altercation, which ended with Mr Zimmerman shooting Trayvon in the chest. “George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighbourhood and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done,” the juror said. “He had a right to defend himself. I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him.”
On one crucial point, she said most of the six jurors believed it was Mr Zimmerman who could be heard calling for help in the background of a recorded 911 emergency call.
Civil rights activists have urged the Department of Justice to investigate the killing as a racially motivated hate crime. But Juror B-37 told Cooper that the panel, five of whom were white, did not believe that race was a factor.
Meanwhile, the singer Stevie Wonder announced during a concert on Sunday that he would not perform in Florida until the state’s Stand Your Ground law – which allows people to use deadly force if they believe their life is in danger – is abolished.