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Protesters rally against Zimmerman verdict

A protester held a sign during a rally in the Harlem neighborhood of New York in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

REUTERS/Keith Bedford

A protester held a sign during a rally in the Harlem neighborhood of New York in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

NEW YORK — From New York to California, demonstrators outraged over the verdict in George Zimmerman’s murder trial took to the streets and to church pulpits Sunday to speak out against his acquittal and to demand federal charges on civil rights violations.

Protests were planned later Sunday in Boston, Detroit, Baltimore, San Francisco and other cities over the Florida case, which unleashed a national debate over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. At least one protest in California hours after the verdict late Saturday ended with vandalism.

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In Manhattan, congregants at Middle Collegiate Church were encouraged to wear hooded sweatshirts in the memory of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager who was wearing a hoodie the night he was shot to death in February 2012.

The Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, wearing a pink hoodie, urged peace and told her congregation that Martin Luther King Jr. ‘‘would have wanted us to conduct ourselves on the highest plane of dignity.’’

But, she added, ‘‘we’re going to raise our voices against the root causes of this kind of tragedy.’’

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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.

Hours after the verdict, demonstrators gathered on U Street in Washington, D.C., chanting, ‘‘No justice, no peace.’’ One protester carried a sign that read, ‘‘Stop criminalizing black men.’’

In Florida, about 200 demonstrators marched through downtown Tallahassee carrying signs that said ‘‘Racism is Not Dead’’ and ‘‘Who’s Next?’’

In Chicago, black clergy members called for calm, with the Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church saying the community should become ‘‘a united voice for peace’’ because it can’t control the verdict but it ‘‘can control our streets and communities.’’

Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, have urged peace. Jackson said the legal system ‘‘failed justice,’’ but violence isn’t the answer.

But not all the protesters heeded the leaders’ call.

In Oakland, Calif., 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 on Alameda County’s Davidson courthouse.

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