PROTESTS sprung up in cities across America yesterday after George Zimmerman was cleared of criminal charges over the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
A Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter on Saturday night, following a trial that has sparked debate about guns, race and civil rights in the US.
Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighbourhood watchman, argued that he was acting in self-defence when he shot the black 17-year-old in a gated community in February 2012.
After the verdict, demonstrators gathered outside the court house, as well as in New York, Washington DC and San Francisco, with some calling for a civil rights prosecution against Zimmerman.
President Barack Obama called for calm on after the acquittal, saying his death was a tragedy and that the country should seek ways to stem gun violence.
“We are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken,” Obama said in a statement. “I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”
Obama, who last year said that “if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon,” added that he was aware the Florida case has elicited strong feelings. “And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher,” he said.
The US Department of Justice said last night it would review the case to decided if it should consider prosecuting Zimmerman.
“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction,” it said in a statement.