SANFORD, Fla. — A crowd of about 150 protesters outside the Seminole County courthouse began chanting “No justice, no peace” after the not-guilty verdict was delivered shortly before 9 p.m. CST.
“He killed a young 17-year-old. He didn’t have to die like that. He should be in prison for life,” said Mattie Aikens, 30, of Sanford. “So you’re telling me he’s gonna walk home? Holding Skittles and Arizona tea. This is not even fair! Are you serious?”
Five miles away, at the Goldsboro Welcome Center, a collective gasp was heard from a crowd of about 50 people when the not-guilty verdict was read. Earlier, people clustered around the memorial and sang a spiritual song.
Many in the crowd at the courthouse came because they had chosen sides: Most were vocal supporters of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed, black 17-year-old whom Zimmerman shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford.
The loudest group of the day was about 30 college students from Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tampa and Miami who traveled to Sanford in 2012 after the shooting calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.
“We stayed in contact through Facebook since last year,” said Chrisley Carpio, 21, a University of Florida student who is staying in Orlando until Monday.
The group waved signs and chanted “Murder, not manslaughter” for hours Saturday.
At times, law-enforcement officers had to step in to cool tempers as things got heated in the crowd.
Reporters and others on the scene said a man, who identified himself as Jack Scott, a Zimmerman supporter of Winter Springs, Fla., walked up to a group of people assembled in support of Trayvon and began yelling, “Go get your welfare checks” and, “Go get your crack.”
A verbal altercation between him and another man in the crowd ensued.
“There was a verbal disagreement between two individuals in the assembly zone, and deputies simply pulled them aside individually to ask them to be respectful of one another,” said Heather Smith, a Seminole County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. “They both agreed, they are both still there, and there was never any physical contact between the two individuals.”
Smith said deputies did not take either man’s name or write a report. Just before 8 p.m., a similar situation emerged and was quickly quelled, the Sheriff’s Office said.
For much of the morning, members of the media outnumbered protesters at the courthouse.
Of the 20 people who showed up early Saturday morning, three were Zimmerman backers with signs of support for the 29-year-old Neighborhood Watch volunteer. By afternoon, about 10 of the 70 people in attendance were supporters of Zimmerman.
Among them was 57-year-old Peter Heiden of Orange City, Fla. He stood in front of the courthouse with a minimalist sign: white, with “Not Guilty” in capitalized block letters.