Protesters gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday as part of a series of rallies being held across California — and the nation — a week after the acquittal of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
The rally was part of a planned 100-city "Justice for Trayvon" protest and call to action. The protesters, who gathered at a federal courthouse downtown, were asking for civil rights charges to be filed against Zimmerman and called for broader changes to the justice system.
For more an hour, speakers from community and religious groups emphasized that the death of the Florida teen was not an isolated incident. They said it’s a symbol of a broken judicial system and pointed to other high-profile cases such as the shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant on a BART platform in Oakland.
Melo Lemus from San Fernando said she came to the protest to push for the federal government to file charges against Zimmerman.
“This country was built off of the idea that black and brown people are not equals. I think that this trial is, it’s just the beginning of I think people are really starting to push back. The rest of the country is really starting to look at the way the system is really failing our people," Lemus said.
Speakers at the peaceful rally also called for a boycott of Florida products, while others encouraged the public to show up and serve on juries when they’re summoned. A common mantra at the event was “We are all Trayvon.”
The Florida case has become a flashpoint in debates over guns, race relations and self-defense laws. Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic. Martin was black.
"We're going to continue to make sure we keep this issue alive through protests, marches, rallies, continue meetings with calls to action. We're also trying to ensure that we can create a movement to repeal the stand-the-ground laws that are currently in Florida and across the nation," said Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E.
Later, a small group marched from the federal courthouse to MacArthur Park and back.
The event was anchored by a rally led by the Rev. Al Sharpton in New York City and another in Miami.
The events capped a week of protests over the Zimmerman verdict. Rallies that began peacefully in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Bernardino earlier in the week led to violence, vandalism and arrests.