Chicago-area religious leaders urged congregants upset by George Zimmerman's acquittal on murder charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin to channel their anger into constructive social change.
"Something radical must be done, but it is through our voices and presence, not through abject violence," the Rev. Marcenia J. Richards of the Life Center Ministers said in a statement. On Sunday, Richards and other clergymen asked Chicagoans to partner together "for peace, calm and dignity" following Zimmerman's acquittal.
"If we are going to tear up our neighborhood because Zimmerman escapes prosecution, we are no better than Zimmerman," he said.
Zimmerman was acquitted late Saturday night of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Community leaders mobilized quickly, with some civil rights leaders calling for a "Hoody Sabbath" in Martin's honor.
At Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side, half the people surrounding the pulpit wore hoodies during a Sunday sermon, including the Rev. Otis Moss III, the church's senior pastor. One woman wore a T-shirt proclaiming, "I am Trayvon."
"I think the verdict sends a strong message that black men, people of color, are perceived differently by many people," Moss said, adding that the verdict shows young men of color are perceived differently by others in our society. But Moss also signaled that this could be an opportunity to change the nation's gun and Stand Your Ground laws.
Across the country, many people have criticized the verdict in Zimmerman's case, arguing that it effectively legalizes the killing of black men who look suspicious. Moss addressed that in his sermon, too, saying his 12-year old son, Elijah, asked Saturday night, "Daddy, am I next?"