Chicagoans, Rev. Jesse Jackson react to Zimmerman not guilty verdict

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Editor’s Note: This is the first piece in a series of on-the-ground reports on reactions to the not guilty verdict reached by the jury in the George Zimmerman trial.

Venita, who didn’t want to give her last name because of her position at an area college said she felt an instant sense of shock and disbelief.“I think the verdict was unjust. I believe that the case law was not applied. Black letter law applies according to the situation, and the weight of the case was based on the fact that it was not a self-defense case.”

“In my opinion it was harassment, because the young man was not doing anything. He was being stalked and terrorized. [Zimmerman] has a history of violence, and I believe that because he was a young black man, that the system worked against him, and in favor of this white man. It’s just that simple. The laws have not changed. We are still ni**ers, we are still slaves in North America and nothing has changed,” Venita said.

“How can a boy attending his business, going to his home, running from a man who is pursuing him be guilty and the killer not be?” asked Chicago civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson in a live interview on NBC Chicago.

Jackson said, “I think it was always a stretch, having, this is not a jury of his peers: six women, not one black, not one man. It never was a jury of his peers. I’m really challenged, in some sense, thinking about this jury.”

“I think that’s some bullsh*t,” said 55-year-old Jimmy Byrd, a Chicago resident. “I don’t like it. I don’t think it was right. I just don’t understand the system.”

Marcelles Montgomery, 19, says Trayvon Martin could have easily been him. When he heard the news of Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, he was outraged.

“In my opinion, he should have been charged for the very fact that he continued to follow Trayvon Martin, after he was told by police that he was not allowed to do so.” It never would have happened if he weren’t there.”

Montgomery is a youth minister on the South Side of Chicago. He said, “To me, it reveals today’s political system, so it does show us what we need to see: that we’re not as far advanced as we think we are.”

Shenika Jackson, 20, agrees with Montgomery, adding, “The jury should have been more sympathetic. If it was their child, how would they feel about it?”

Richard Price, 53, an administrator at a Chicago college said, “He created the situation and that didn’t have to happen that way.” In response to the jury’s verdict, Price said, “Sometimes people do things and they don’t really analyze what they’re doing.”

Continuing, Price said, “It could happen right in Chicago. It could be anywhere. And sometimes these things set precedents for what happens in the future.”

Tonya Brown, 48, strongly disagreed with the jury’s verdict. “It should have at least been manslaughter.” She added, “I hope that it will be retried. My justice system has disappointed me with this.”

Late Saturday evening, members of the Occupy Chicago movement tweeted that they were organizing a protest at Chicago’s downtown Daley Plaza. Jackson encouraged Chicago residents to stay nonviolent in their protest of Zimmerman’s verdict.

“I hope those who are in pain would not act in a way that would discredit the legacy of Trayvon Martin,” he said.

Renita D. Young is a Chicago-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.