TAMPA — The crowd was angry. They wore hoodies and carried signs and called for "Justice for Trayvon."
More than 175 people marched Sunday evening from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to the federal courthouse in protest after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murder in the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin last year in Sanford.
"Are you angry?" Alekos Zambrano, 22, of Tampa asked the crowd through a megaphone. "You should be angry."
What started as a group of 20 people posted near the fountains in Curtis Hixon Park swelled to about 175 within an hour. They chanted and mourned and asked, "How could this happen?"
One man sporting a Florida hoodie waved a pack of Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea, the items 17-year-old Martin was carrying when he was shot. Some passing cars honked at the crowd as law enforcement stood nearby at the Glazer Children's Museum.
People took turns speaking from a megaphone, sharing their concern and outrage over Zimmerman's acquittal.
"It really, really hurt me to hear that verdict of not guilty, because I thought about my son and the fact that I have to teach him to understand that there's people that might not love you because of the color of your skin," said Shay Johnson, 28, who has a 6-year-old son. "And even if you fight, you might die fighting because of the color of your skin."
Protests of varying sizes took place across the United States following the verdict, according to news reports. The Orlando Sentinel reported protests in Sanford on Sunday afternoon ranging in size from a dozen to 40 people.
Life Malcolm, 38, of Tampa, was in Sanford on Saturday to hear the ruling. He returned to Tampa and spoke to the crowd Sunday, calling for "an eye for an eye" and "a life for a life."
Malcolm, who has tattoos spelling out "life" in bullets on his right arm and "death" on his left, said people must equate the value of a black life to the value of a white life.
"I'm not by any means calling for violence for violence's sake," Malcolm said. "But it has to be clear that an African life is worth another life."
Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.