Black Leaders "Outraged" by Zimmerman Verdict

The civil rights community is grappling with how to move forward in the wake of Zimmerman's acquittal.

Posted: 07/14/2013 12:34 AM EDT

The civil rights community reacted swiftly to the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman. The general consensus is that justice did not prevail and in fact failed the family of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

“We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict,” said Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP. “We stand with Trayvon’s family and we are called to act. We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network and an MSNBC host, also said that Zimmerman may later be found guilty in a civil case and that civil rights groups would seek to end the kind of "stand your ground" laws they believe played a significant role in Martin's death.

According to MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom, the FBI had begun an investigation into whether Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights, but it was put on hold during the trial.

"This is another tragedy for Black families everywhere, and another instance of how law enforcement and our criminal justice system routinely fail Black people and communities," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange.org. "Were it not for Trayvon’s family and countless supporters taking action, Zimmerman would have never faced a single question about his actions at all. Tonight, as George Zimmerman walks away without penalty, the verdict sends a clear message about the minimal value placed on the lives of young Black men and boys everywhere."

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, agrees. She pointed to a history of young African-American men being racially profiled by overzealous people like Zimmerman and law enforcement and then treated unfairly by the judicial system.

"Black men are routinely racially profiled whether by a neighborhood watch captain like George Zimmerman, or the stop-and-frisk policy of the New York City.

Police, in which a staggering 86 percent of those stopped during the Bloomberg administration were Black or Latino; 88 percent of which ended up being innocent," Dianis said. All across the country, young Black men continue to be the victims of police killings by officers who are then rarely held accountable for their actions."

Dianis called the Zimmerman verdict "a clarion call" for the nation to deal with racial injustice and the ongoing victimization of young Black men.

Black leaders planned to hold a late-night conference call following the verdict to discuss next steps.

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(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images For BET)

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