Zimmerman verdict a 'wake-up call' for blacks in Atlanta

Editor’s Note: This is the second 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.

ATLANTA – Stafford Mitchell has been glued to the television screen for the last three weeks.

The owner of a popular barbershop on the south side of Atlanta has been gripped by the wall-to-wall coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.

He says his customers, predominately African-American males, were equally fired up by the racially charged high-profile case. “It’s the main topic of discussion,” says Mitchell, who has run Executive Cuts & Styles for the past 12 years.

“It was as big as the O.J. Simpson trial. Everyone who came in iterated their opinion.”

Indeed, a small TV in the corner of the shop became a window for the live courtroom streams. The proceedings, commentary and in-depth legal analysis were the main focus for passionate and frank discussions, says Mitchell.

He says he’s been anxiously awaiting the verdict in Zimmerman case. But when he heard the not guilty verdict he felt angry and sad for the family of Trayvon Martin.

“Based on what I’ve seen [Zimmerman] was clearly in the wrong,” says Mitchell. “He didn’t follow the instructions of the 911 operator.

“He killed an unarmed man. They say it was self-defense but Trayvon Martin had no weapon.

“If anything Trayvon was defending himself: if someone’s following me I have a right to defend myself. This is a very sad day for America.”

“This is the justice system in America and we have to live with the system,” says Brian Weans, who regularly gets his hair cut at Mitchell’s barbershop.

“I am disappointed that the prosecution was unable to prove their case for the jurors to make an educated decision. It’s a travesty that they [Trayvon’s parents] have to deal with the death of their son and the fact that the killer gets to walk free.”

“It’s a wake-up call. We’ve got complacent because we believe that we are living in a post-racial society and obviously this verdict shows this is not the case,” says Armstrong Booker, a stay-at-home mom.

“It reminds us again that in this country black men and black boys can fall at the hands of white people and get away with it,” says Andrew Harris, of northeast Atlanta, who is the father of three, including a 15-year-old boy.

“I didn’t even watch the case,” says Harris, who is a commodities trader, “I didn’t even want to watch a case where another white man got away with killing a black man.”

“Not only can white men and the police kill an African-American man and get away with it. The verdict of this case shows they can kill African-American boys and get away with it,” he added.

“He hunted him like a predator hunts prey, killed him, and got away with it. In a town where the police were not willing to enforce the law how can we expect the jury to?”

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