When the all-female jury announced its not-guilty verdict late Saturday night, some in South Florida reacted to the news with deep anger and disappointment.
“I’m sad,” was the only response Miami Gardens barber Steve Bass could muster. He had cut Trayvon Martin’s hair since the teen was a toddler and could barely put his frustrations into words.
Earlier in the day, everyone at Bass’ barber shop, Flat Tops & Fades, had been glued to two television sets tuned to the HLN network, monitoring every minute of the jury’s deliberations.
At that point, Bass was still hopeful of a conviction, and called the teen “one of ours.”
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On his cell phone, Bass has a photo of Trayvon he shares with those who ask. It’s a young Trayvon as a toddler, Bass said.
God’s Tabernacle of Deliverance Ministry in Liberty City will open its doors all day Sunday for the public as will many other churches for the public to turn to and have a safe space.
“Every church should be open tomorrow to enforce the word not to retaliate,” said The Rev. Vernon Gillum.
On a personal level, Gillum said he was disappointed in the outcome of the case and said he believes race played a role in the jury’s acquittal of Zimmerman.
“The verdict has me questioning as a people, as a country, have we really progressed to the point where a life means nothing,” Gillum said. “If the racial roles were reversed, would this result be the same?”
In a statement emailed shortly after the verdict, Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime expressed sadness over the jury’s decision, saying Trayvon’s parents had endured the “unthinkable.”
“The jury’s verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman is extremely disappointing,” he said. “As a father of two boys, this case was personal.”
Monestime, who represents neighborhoods from North Miami to Little Haiti, called for prayers for Trayvon’s parents. His mother, Sybrina, is a Miami-County employee on unpaid leave.
“We should honor the life of Trayvon Benjamin Martin with a peaceful, non-violent response to the verdict,” Monestime said.
Minutes after the verdict was delivered, a Miami-Dade Police spokesman said the department was monitoring any local reaction.
“We’re playing it by ear, just like everybody else,” Detective Javier Baez said.
He noted that Saturday had been quiet leading up to the verdict, which was announced about 10 p.m.
The department had made “minor” changes in preparation for the end of the trial, Baez said. For example, officers like himself who would normally be in plain clothes on a Saturday came into work in uniform.
“Everyone knows to be here in town if we have to be available,” he said.
Trayvon, who was shot and killed by Zimmerman in the Central Florida town of Sanford last year, grew up in Miami Gardens. The death of the unarmed teen — and the six-week delay in any criminal charges being filed against Zimmerman — sparked angry public protests and a re-examination of race in America.
Zimmerman’s attorneys argued that their client acted in self-defense after Martin attacked him. But some countered that local authorities initially went easy on Zimmerman because Martin, 17, was black.
Hours before the verdict, An organic rally formed at the intersection of Southwest 200th Street and US Highway 1 in Cutler Bay.
People touted signs that read: “It’s not a black thang, just do the right thang.”
Attendees chanted “No justice, no peace!” through a bullhorn to cars as they passed by.
Among those there was Ronald Fulton, Martin’s 50-year-old maternal uncle from Miami Gardens.
Fulton attended a few days of the trial and acts as a representative for the family.
Fulton teared up as he talked about his nephew.
“I can’t wait until it’s over,” he said through the tears. “I can’t wait until it’s over.”
Soon after, it was.
Soon after the verdict, students at FAMU in Tallahssee staged a small desmonstration on campus that prompted the school to issue alert warnings to students, staff and faculty.
At the Capitol, scores of demonstrators gathered after midnight and sang church hymns in memory of Trayvon Martin and listened to speakers calling for change in the legal system.