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July 15, 2013

Rallies, marches follow Zimmerman verdict

NEW YORK — Thousands of demonstrators from across the country — chanting, praying and even fighting tears — protested a jury's decision to clear neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager while the Justice Department considered whether to file criminal civil rights charges.

Rallies on Sunday were largely peaceful as demonstrators voiced their support for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's family and decried Zimmerman's not guilty verdict as a miscarriage of justice. Police in Los Angeles said they arrested several people early Monday after about 80 protesters gathered in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and an unlawful assembly was declared. The New York Police Department said it arrested at least a dozen people on disorderly conduct charges during a rally in Times Square.

The NAACP and protesters called for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday in Martin's February 2012 shooting death.

The Justice Department said it is looking into the case to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case. The department opened an investigation into Martin's death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.

The evidence generated during the federal probe is still being evaluated by the criminal section of the Justice Department's civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office for the Middle District of Florida, along with evidence and testimony from the state trial, the Justice Department said.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and religious and civil rights leaders urged calm in hopes of ensuring peaceful demonstrations following a case that became an emotional flash point.

Sunday's demonstrations, held in cities from Florida to Wisconsin, attracted anywhere from a few dozen people to a more than a thousand.

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