Zimmerman verdict protests heat up as Justice Department considers filing civil rights charges
by Verena Dobnik
NEW YORK - Thousands of demonstrators from across the country - chanting, praying and even fighting tears - protested a jury's decision to clear neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager while the Justice Department considered whether to file criminal civil rights charges.
Rallies on Sunday were largely peaceful as demonstrators voiced their support for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's family and decried Zimmerman's not guilty verdict as a miscarriage of justice. Police in Los Angeles said they arrested several people early Monday after about 80 protesters gathered in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and an unlawful assembly was declared. The New York Police Department said it arrested at least a dozen people on disorderly conduct charges during a rally in Times Square.
The NAACP and protesters called for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday in Martin's February 2012 shooting death.
The Justice Department said it is looking into the case to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case. The department opened an investigation into Martin's death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.
The evidence generated during the federal probe is still being evaluated by the criminal section of the Justice Department's civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office for the Middle District of Florida, along with evidence and testimony from the state trial, the Justice Department said.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and religious and civil rights leaders urged calm in hopes of ensuring peaceful demonstrations following a case that became an emotional flash point.
Sunday's demonstrations, held in cities from Florida to Wisconsin, attracted anywhere from a few dozen people to a more than a thousand.
At a march and rally in downtown Chicago attended by about 200 people, some said the verdict was symbolic of lingering racism in the United States. Seventy-three-year-old Maya Miller said the case reminded her of the 1955 slaying of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was murdered by a group of white men while visiting Mississippi. Till's killing galvanized the civil rights movement.
"Fifty-eight years and nothing's changed," Miller said, pausing to join a chant for "Justice for Trayvon, not one more."
In New York City, more than a thousand people marched into Times Square on Sunday night, zigzagging through Manhattan's streets to avoid police lines. Sign-carrying marchers thronged the busy intersection, chanting "Justice for! Trayvon Martin!" as they made their way from Union Square, blocking traffic for more than an hour before moving on.
In San Francisco and Los Angeles, where an earlier protest was dispersed with beanbag rounds, police closed streets as protesters marched Sunday to condemn Zimmerman's acquittal.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged protesters to "practice peace" after the rock- and bottle-throwing incident. Later, more than 100 officers in riot gear converged on the crowd and ordered people to disperse. Police said they made seven arrests throughout the day, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Rand Powdrill, 41, of San Leandro, Calif., said he came to the San Francisco march with about 400 others to "protest the execution of an innocent black teenager."
"If our voices can't be heard, then this is just going to keep going on," he said.
Earlier, at Manhattan's Middle Collegiate Church, many congregants wore hooded sweatshirts - similar to the one Martin was wearing the night he was shot - in a show of solidarity. Hoodie-clad Jessica Nacinovich said she could only feel disappointment and sadness over 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.
At a youth service in Sanford, Fla., where the trial was held, teens wearing shirts displaying Martin's picture wiped away tears during a sermon at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.
Protesters also gathered in Atlanta, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., along with a host of other cities.
In Miami, more than 200 people gathered for a vigil. "You can't justify murder," read one poster. Another read "Don't worry about more riots. Worry about more Zimmermans."
Carol Reitner, 76, of Miami, said she heard about the vigil through an announcement at her church Sunday morning. "I was really devastated. It's really hard to believe that someone can take the life of someone else and walk out of court free," she said.
In Philadelphia, about 700 protesters marched from LOVE Park to the Liberty Bell, alternating between chanting Trayvon Martin's name and "No justice, no peace!"
"We hope this will begin a movement to end discrimination against young black men," said Johnathan Cooper, one of the protest's organizers. "And also to empower black people and get them involved in the system."
In Atlanta, a crowd of about 75 protesters chanted and carried signs near Centennial Olympic Park.
"I came out today because a great deal of injustice has been done and I'm very disappointed at our justice system; I'm just disappointed in America," said Tabatha Holley, 19, of Atlanta.
Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, urged peace in the wake of the verdict. Jackson said the legal system "failed justice," but violence isn't the answer.
But not all the protesters heeded those calls immediately after the verdict.
In Oakland, Calif., during protests that began late Saturday night, some angry demonstrators broke windows, burned U.S. flags and started street fires. Some marchers also vandalized a police squad car and used spray paint to scrawl anti-police graffiti on roads and Alameda County's Davidson courthouse.
Journalist: Edward Snowden has 'blueprints' to NSA
by JENNY BARCHFIELD
RIO DE JANEIRO—Edward Snowden has highly sensitive documents on how the National Security Agency is structured and operates that could harm the U.S. government, but has insisted that they not be made public, a journalist close to the NSA leaker said.
Glenn Greenwald, a columnist with The Guardian newspaper who first reported on the intelligence leaks, told The Associated Press that disclosure of the information in the documents "would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it."
He said the "literally thousands of documents" taken by Snowden constitute "basically the instruction manual for how the NSA is built."
"In order to take documents with him that proved that what he was saying was true he had to take ones that included very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do," the journalist said Sunday in a Rio de Janeiro hotel room. He said the interview was taking place about four hours after his last interaction with Snowden.
Greenwald said he believes the disclosure of the information in the documents would not prove harmful to Americans or their national security, but that Snowden has insisted they not be made public.
"I think it would be harmful to the U.S. government, as they perceive their own interests, if the details of those programs were revealed," he said.
He has previously said the documents have been encrypted to help ensure their safekeeping.
Snowden emerged from weeks of hiding in a Moscow airport Friday, and said he was willing to meet President Vladimir Putin's condition that he stop leaking U.S. secrets if it means Russia would give him asylum until he can move on to Latin America.
Greenwald told The AP that he deliberately avoids talking to Snowden about issues related to where the former analyst might seek asylum in order to avoid possible legal problems for himself.
Snowden is believed to be stuck in the transit area of Moscow's main international airport, where he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. He's had offers of asylum from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, but because his U.S. passport has been revoked, the logistics of reaching whichever country he chooses are complicated.
Still, Greenwald said that Snowden remains "calm and tranquil," despite his predicament.
"I haven't sensed an iota of remorse or regret or anxiety over the situation that he's in," said Greenwald, who has lived in Brazil for the past eight years. "He's of course tense and focused on his security and his short-term well-being to the best extent that he can, but he's very resigned to the fact that things might go terribly wrong and he's at peace with that."
Greenwald said he worried that interest in Snowden's personal saga had detracted from the impact of his revelations, adding that Snowden deliberately turned down nearly all requests for interviews to avoid the media spotlight.
Asked whether Snowden seemed worried about his personal safety, Greenwald responded, "he's concerned."
He said the U.S. has shown it's "willing to take even the most extreme steps if they think doing so is necessary to neutralize a national security threat," Greenwald said. "He's aware of all those things, he's concerned about them but he's not going to be in any way paralyzed or constrained in what he thinks he can do as a result of that."
Asked about a so-called dead man's pact, which Greenwald has said would allow several people to access Snowden's trove of documents were anything to happen to him, Greenwald replied that "media descriptions of it have been overly simplistic.
"It's not just a matter of, if he dies, things get released, it's more nuanced than that," he said. "It's really just a way to protect himself against extremely rogue behavior on the part of the United States, by which I mean violent actions toward him, designed to end his life, and it's just a way to ensure that nobody feels incentivized to do that."
He declined to provide any more details about the pact or how it would work.
Greenwald said he himself has beefed up his own security, particularly since a laptop went missing from his Rio home.
"I don't really feel comfortable discussing the specific measures, but one would be really irrational and foolish to have thousands of top-secret documents from the most secretive agency of the world's most powerful government and not be thoughtful about added security," said the 46-year-old former constitutional and civil rights lawyer who has written three books contending the government has violated personal rights in the name of protecting national security.
Greenwald has also co-authored a series of articles in Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper focusing on NSA actions in Latin America. He said he expected to continue publishing further stories based on other Snowden documents over the next four months.
Upcoming stories would likely include details on "other domestic spying programs that have yet to be revealed," but which are similar in scope to those he has been reporting on. He did not provide further details on the nature of those programs.
It was not immediately clear whether Russia would take Snowden up on his latest request for asylum, which could further test U.S.-Russia relations.
Following Friday's meeting between Snowden and human rights activists, U.S. officials criticized Russia for allowing a "propaganda platform" for the NSA leader.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Russia should instead send Snowden back to the U.S. to face the felony charges that are pending against him.
Carney said Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident. "He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony counts and should be returned to the United States," the spokesman said.