Shocked But Peaceful Reaction To Zimmerman Trial In Sanford

The central Florida town of Sanford has been in the spotlight for the conclusion to the George Zimmerman trial. Host Jacki Jyden speaks with NPR's Hansi Lo Wang in Sanford for local reaction so far to Zimmerman's acquittal in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Seventeen months after the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, the murder trial of George Zimmerman has come to a close with two words: not guilty. Last night, the former neighborhood watch volunteer was acquitted of both manslaughter and second-degree murder charges in Sanford, Florida.

NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has been reporting on the reaction to the verdict. We reached him a short while ago outside the Seminole County courthouse where, today, protesters gathered in support of Trayvon Martin. Hansi, thanks for being with us.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Thank you, Jacki.

LYDEN: So bring us up to date, Hansi. What's the scene like at the courthouse today?

WANG: Well, I'm actually standing right by a big road right outside the courthouse because the courthouse is closed to the public today. But that hasn't stopped a small group of protesters. I would say a little bit over a dozen have gathered here on a street corner. They're holding signs that say: Justice for Trayvon. And they were chanting earlier, but you can still hear helicopters hovering overhead. The media is still here. But it's still a relatively quiet and peaceful scene. I think that describes what the reaction has been across town today.

LYDEN: And you were there late last night when the verdict was announced. How did the crowd react then?

WANG: Right. I was right outside the courthouse, and I would say the first reaction right after the verdict was announced was shock. And that goes across the aisle, both Trayvon Martin supporters and George Zimmerman supporters. They were shocked at the verdict overall. And - but that quickly turned into outrage, frustration, because there were a lot more Trayvon Martin supporters there - at least vocally there - than George Zimmerman supporters.

LYDEN: Hansi, Sanford has been bracing itself for this verdict for a long time. I know you went to some of the neighborhoods there last night. What did you find?

WANG: Right. I went to a neighborhood called Goldsboro, which is one of Sanford's historically black neighborhoods, and also saw a pretty heavy police presence. So a number of police officers standing on the corners. And that's because - partly because the police department is in that neighborhood, but also because law enforcement were worried that there would be some unrest there. So I talked to a resident. His name is John Henderson. And he and his neighbors knew that keeping their reaction peaceful was really important.

JOHN HENDERSON: We're not going to act like we've lost our minds because we got what we asked for. The verdict came, so we're going to abide by what the verdict says.

WANG: I also talked to a community organizer. His name is Vince Taylor. And he said that even though that Trayvon Martin supporters know that they need to be peaceful doesn't mean they have to be quiet.

VINCE TAYLOR: Just because it's not a loud obnoxious riot doesn't mean that we'll be quiet. We'll still make some noise, but we have enough sense to know not to burn down our own city in protest of something that happened in our city. We still have to live here.

WANG: So, so far the loudest voices we've heard in Sanford are unhappy with the verdict, but it's still relatively peaceful.

LYDEN: Well, NPR Hansi Lo Wang in Sanford, Florida, thanks very much for bringing us up to date.

WANG: Thank you, Jacki.

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