Protesters denouncing Zimmerman acquittal hit L.A. streets again

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the Los Angeles Times on July 16.

Protesters took to Los Angeles streets for the fourth night in a row Tuesday, waving signs and chanting slogans to denounce the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

Marches downtown and in Leimert Park appeared peaceful as of late Tuesday evening, a break from the violence that pocked Monday protests and spurred dozens of arrests in Los Angeles and Oakland.

In downtown Los Angeles, about 200 people joined in a march from City Hall to the nearby Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, where officers in riot helmets stood with batons. Protesters young and old and of many ethnicities chanted, "Whose streets? Trayvon's streets."

PHOTOS: George Zimmerman trial verdict protests

The event was organized by the ANSWER coalition, a national group that describes itself as antiwar and anti-racist. Members of Occupy Los Angeles and other groups joined in.

"We won't stop marching until there is justice for Trayvon Martin," ANSWER organizer Eugene Puryear said over a loudspeaker at City Hall. "We won't stop sitting in.... We won't get out of the streets."

Rajeeyah Bilal-Varney, 58, said she was marching because she had cried and screamed at the television when she learned that Zimmerman had been acquitted in a Florida trial that garnered national headlines.

"I feel like Trayvon is my son," said Bilal-Varney, of Lakewood. "I feel like this is a racist system, and I can't just sit back and do nothing."

The Martin case hit close to home: In the 1990s, her 17-year-old son was shot to death. His killer was never brought to justice, which she doesn't think would have happened had her son not been black, she said.

Bilal-Varney said she expects the movement to grow in the coming weeks as the marches get more publicity.

"I'm ready for the long haul until something changes," she said. If things don't change, Bilal-Varney said, "my great-great-great grandchildren are going to be out here, protesting the same thing."

In Leimert Park, scores of people gathered to demonstrate, hoisting signs reading "Justice for Trayvon." Children mingled in the crowds. Among the protesters was Jennifer Anderson, 31, an emergency room nurse from West Los Angeles.

"If it's not racism, then what is it?" Anderson said of the Zimmerman verdict. She has no children, but said that when she does, "I don't want them to feel scared, to feel like they can't defend themselves if a man with a gun is coming after them."

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