People gathered outside the Seminole County, Fla. courtroom and throughout the country in angry, but mostly peaceful protests following the not guilty verdict late Saturday in the trial of George Zimmerman.
An all-female jury found Zimmerman not guilty of fatally shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, after 15 hours of deliberation following a 13-day trial. The case became a public cause celebre, involving race and the rights of individuals to defend themselves against perceived danger.
Zimmerman, 29, left the courthouse a free man, although his lawyers had said his life would never be the same given the extensive global publicity surrounding the case. Martin's family was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
State prosecutors argued that Zimmerman was acting as a "wannabe cop" and took the law into his own hands when he followed the black teenager and shot him. Zimmerman has said he acted out of self defense and that Martin had attacked him, and his attorneys said there was not enough evidence to prove otherwise.
Judge Debra Nelson ruled on Wednesday that jurors could also consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, which also carried the possibility of life in prison.
Earlier Saturday evening, jurors asked for clarification on the definition of manslaughter, indicating that second-degree murder had already been ruled out.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said in a press conference after the verdict was announced that although he was "disappointed," he respected the jury's verdict. Daryl Parks, an attorney for the Martin family, said the family was "heartbroken."
"We have from the beginning just prayed for the truth to come out, and for peace to be the result and that continues to be our prayers and we believe that has been answered," prosecutor John Guy said at the press conference.
In the days leading to the closure of the case, Florida law enforcement prepared for a possible violent reaction, while community leaders urged those involved to act peacefully.
"Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies," Rev. Jesse Jackson said on Twitter following the verdict. "Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair."
Protesters outside the courthouse yelled "No! No!" after the verdict was announced. Protests remained peaceful for the most part, in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
A group of about 100 protesters in Oakland, Calif., however, broke windows, started fires and vandalized a police car, NPR reported.
Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, took to Twitter to thank people for the support his family received in the 17 months since the shooting. He said that although he is "broken hearted," his faith remains "unshattered."
"God blessed me & Sybrina with Tray and even in his death I know my baby proud of the FIGHT we along with all of you put up for him GOD BLESS," another Tweet says.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara said before the verdict that he believes Zimmerman's life may be at risk.
"There are a lot of people who think George killed Trayvon Martin for racial reasons, even though nothing supports that. And if they feel that anger enough, they could react violently," O'Mara said, according to CNN.