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Hundreds gather in Pittsburgh to protest acquittal in Trayvon Martin case

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Protesters join hands as they draw their rally to a close along Centre Avenue in the Hill District where they were blocking traffic for hours by Freedom Corner in the Hill District on Sunday, July 14, 2013. The group, which at its peak numbered around 200 people, was angry at the not guilty ruling for George Zimmerman and the state of race relations in America. A smaller group sat along Centre Avenue, effectively closing the street down for several hours until 11PM when they joined hands in a circle and peacefully dispersed.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Protesters join hands as they draw their rally to a close along Centre Avenue in the Hill District where they were blocking traffic for hours by Freedom Corner in the Hill District on Sunday, July 14, 2013. The group, which at its peak numbered around 200 people, was angry at the not guilty ruling for George Zimmerman and the state of race relations in America. A smaller group sat along Centre Avenue, effectively closing the street down for several hours until 11PM when they joined hands in a circle and peacefully dispersed.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney (far right) negotiates with Joy KMT (left), 30, of McKeesport, Bekezela Mguni, 28, of Wilkinsburg and La'Tasha Mayes, 32, of Morningside as they block traffic on Sunday, July 14, 2013, along Centre Avenue in the Hill District.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney (far right) negotiates with Joy KMT (left), 30, of McKeesport, Bekezela Mguni, 28, of Wilkinsburg and La'Tasha Mayes, 32, of Morningside as they block traffic on Sunday, July 14, 2013, along Centre Avenue in the Hill District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Jimar Mangham, 3, of the Hill District sleeps on the shoulder of Jordan Arnett, 16, of the North Side as he watched protesters block traffic along Centre Avenue in the Hill District during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Jimar Mangham, 3, of the Hill District sleeps on the shoulder of Jordan Arnett, 16, of the North Side as he watched protesters block traffic along Centre Avenue in the Hill District during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Bekezela Mguni (right), 28, of Wilkinsburg holds hands with La'Tasha Mayes, 32, of Morningside as they sit in the middle of Centre Avenue in the Hill District during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Bekezela Mguni (right), 28, of Wilkinsburg holds hands with La'Tasha Mayes, 32, of Morningside as they sit in the middle of Centre Avenue in the Hill District during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Bekezela Mguni (center), 28, of Wilkinsburg cries as she speaks in the street during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Bekezela Mguni (center), 28, of Wilkinsburg cries as she speaks in the street during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Protesters at a rally for Trayvon Martin block traffic along Centre Avenue after a peaceful demonstration on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Protesters at a rally for Trayvon Martin block traffic along Centre Avenue after a peaceful demonstration on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Protesters at a rally for Trayvon Martin block traffic along Centre Avenue on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District. About 200 people were in attendance.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Protesters at a rally for Trayvon Martin block traffic along Centre Avenue on Sunday, July 14, 2013, at Freedom Corner in the Hill District. About 200 people were in attendance.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Joy KMT (center), 30, of McKeesport, holds the hand of a fellow protester as her daughter, Natyaa KMT, 10, looks on during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013, in the Hill District.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Joy KMT (center), 30, of McKeesport, holds the hand of a fellow protester as her daughter, Natyaa KMT, 10, looks on during a rally for Trayvon Martin on Sunday, July 14, 2013, in the Hill District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Joy KMT (left), 30, of McKeesport, Bekezela Mguni (center), 28, of Wilkinsburg and La'Tasha Mayes, 32, of Morningside block traffic on Sunday, July 14, 2103, along Centre Avenue in the Hill District during a rally for Trayvon Martin.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Joy KMT (left), 30, of McKeesport, Bekezela Mguni (center), 28, of Wilkinsburg and La'Tasha Mayes, 32, of Morningside block traffic on Sunday, July 14, 2103, along Centre Avenue in the Hill District   during a rally for Trayvon Martin.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Samantha Wishzczar of Washington sits with her boyfriend Justin Coney, 24, of Washington and Lisa Quinn, of Beechview, wait alongside the spot on Centre Avenue in the Hill District where protesters were blocking traffic for hours during a rally for Trayvon Martin by Freedom Corner in the Hill District on Sunday, July 14, 2013. The three all planned to stick around in solidarity and wait to see how long the protesters would continue to block traffic. The group, which at its peak numbered around 200 people, was angry at the not guilty ruling for George Zimmerman and the state of race relations in America.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Samantha Wishzczar of Washington sits with her boyfriend Justin Coney, 24, of Washington and Lisa Quinn, of Beechview, wait alongside the spot on Centre Avenue in the Hill District  where protesters were blocking traffic for hours during a rally for Trayvon Martin by Freedom Corner in the Hill District on Sunday, July 14, 2013. The three all planned to stick around in solidarity and wait to see how long the protesters would continue to block traffic. The group, which at its peak numbered around 200 people, was angry at the not guilty ruling for George Zimmerman and the state of race relations in America.

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By Bill Vidonic
Sunday, July 14, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
 

More than 200 people gathered in the Hill District and Shadyside on Sunday to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin as anger over the Florida jury verdict spread to cities nationwide.

“It could have been anybody, black or white,” Rahim Jones, 42, of East Liberty said about the racially charged killing in February 2012 and Saturday's verdict. Jones was among about 75 people who gathered at Mellon Park about 3 p.m. to plan a larger rally that began three hours later at Freedom Corner in the Hill District.

Demonstrators remained in the street near the historic corner until shortly after 11 p.m., when the final two dozen left. Pittsburgh police initially threatened to arrest people who blocked traffic, then allowed dozens to remain on Centre Avenue.

“We don't want to be the city that comes off disrespecting (Martin's) memory,” said Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, who knelt in the street and spoke quietly to protesters who were screaming and saying they would not leave.

Protester Bekezela Mguni, 28, of Wilkinsburg said the organizers plan another event for Wednesday at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown.

Zimmerman, 29, a neighborhood watch volunteer, said he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense. Because Martin was black and unarmed, many people said during demonstrations since the acquittal that the jury's decision shows racism remains a problem.

“America has not grown at all,” said Anastasia Carrington-Peterson, 16, of Beltzhoover. “We have not gotten anywhere we think we have.”

The crowd at Freedom Corner, which included a mix of races, carried signs and chanted, “I am Trayvon Martin.”

“The system is not working,” said Myra Kiselova, 28, of Garfield. “It's clearly not working. It's dividing us.”

Organizers said they wanted the rally to unite people.

Across the state, about 700 people marched peacefully through Center City Philadelphia, chanting Martin's name as they walked from Love Park to the Liberty Bell and back. It was a scene repeated in dozens of cities.

At Manhattan's Middle Collegiate Church, many congregants wore hooded sweatshirts — the same thing Martin was wearing the night he was shot. Hoodie-clad Jessica Nacinovich said she could only feel disappointment and sadness about the verdict.

“I'm sure jurors did what they felt was right in accordance with the law, but maybe the law is wrong, maybe society is wrong. There's a lot that needs fixing,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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