South Floridians React to George Zimmerman Trial Verdict

The weather did put the damper on the small rallies but it appears that the message from Trayvon Martin's family is resonating.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Pastor Arthur Jackson III, Ken Joseph, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and Johnny Macon commented about the reaction to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Hank Tester reports. (Published Monday, Jul 15, 2013)

    Across the nation, there was reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict, and over the weekend small rallies were scattered across Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

    "Our response to this is to not take matters into our own hands but turn the matter over to God's hands," said Pastor Arthur Jackson III.

    The weather did put the damper on the small rallies but it appears that the message from Trayvon Martin's family is resonating.

    "In Florida we have to respect the wishes of Trayvon's parent and you know. They plead do not riot, just have an easy manner," said Ken Joseph.

    A Saturday rally in southwest Miami was mostly middle-aged participants, not many youngsters. And there might be a reason for that according to a veteran of civil rights demonstrations and now current congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

    "I think it was the generation they grew up in they are not keenly aware of the divide like we are. They do not see the issue in the same prism as we do," Wilson said.

    "You should see what they are putting on social media. Something we did not have. So we had to go to the streets," Wilson said.

    In the streets those who did show up to organize had a consistent message:

    "We want the community to know regardless how the verdict turn out we want peace in our community," Johnny Macon said.

    A planned 1 p.m. protest on Monday was canceled because a fatal drive-by shooting occurred near the location where people had been expected to gather, the event organizer said.

    On Sunday, a day after the verdict that found Zimmerman not guilty, demonstrators marched from the Torch of Friendship to the Freedom Tower in Miami.

    Mothers and fathers who attended Sunday's rally said they've had to field tough questions from their children.

    "He turned to me and he said, 'Mom what are we going to do now? This system is not just,'" said Sherry Hunt, who said her 11-year-old son cried as he heard the verdict come in.

    Keno Walker, 18, says he attended the vigil to vent his frustration in a constructive way.

    "It brings up rage and anger because I'm a black youth. Just to see one black youth die, that's crazy. It's like when will it stop?" Walker asked.

    Though in the courtroom race was not a focus, some of the tensions felt by the community were evident in the signs they held in downtown Miami Sunday. "Stop discrimination!" one read.

    "Part of me felt that this was going to be the verdict. And yet I was very surprised and hurt and very frightened by the result," said Camilo Mejilla.

    The verdict is also being supported by some members of the community. The owner of a Pompano Beach gun store believes jurors made the right call.

    "I think he was just following somebody late at night, and maybe he should have backed off the confrontation but we don't really know what happened," said Gary Lampert, owner of National Armory. "Nobody knows and I think the jury did the right thing and I think we have to go by their decision."

    Though Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law did not play in a role in the Zimmerman trial, it was the focus of some debate across the nation. Local leaders like State Senator Dwight Bullard, who represents the 39th District, want to make changes to that law. He's asking constituents to help by phoning their legislators.

    "This isn't about a gun rights issue, this isn't about your Second Amendment rights being violated. It has everything to do with, do you feel safer with it on the books, or without it," Bullard said.