The trial of George Zimmerman has fueled conversations from coast to coast, and a Minneapolis congregation known for fighting for civil rights held a prayer vigil to plead for understanding.
Since the not guilty verdict was returned, many have vented frustrations while others defended the jurors' decision -- but the gathering at the Shir Tikvah Synagogue in south Minneapolis was not about taking sides.
Rabbi Michael Latz told FOX 9 News he organized the vigil for Trayvon Martin for one very big reason.
"Regardless of how you fall on the spectrum of what you believe about the verdict, I can't imagine you are immune to or unaware there is great pain in the community," Latz said.
Many agree the trial has divided the country, and the verdict seemed to deepen the differences. Through prayer and song, he hopes some healing can begin.
Nekima Levi-Pounds is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, and she has a son who is also named Trayvon.
"I think it's important for people to understand, along racial lines, there is a difference of opinion whether our justice system is fair to all people -- especially those who feel oppressed and are from different racial and ethnic backgrounds," she said.
Former Ramsey County Prosecutor Susan Gaertner said those who work to address those concerns exist, but she said she doesn't believe race played a role in the case.
"I do know people in the system take that criticism very seriously and do whatever they can do to make sure justice is fair," she said. "I have seen nothing that makes me think that the color of the skin of these two individuals -- the victim and the defendant -- that was what this was about."
Gaertner said she wouldn't have been surprised if the jury went in either direction, adding that people on both sides have vested interests in their opinions.
"On both sides, I think people have agendas," she said. "On the one hand, people who feel strongly on gun rights, self-defense, those things … On the other hand, people who understandably are concerned about racism in our country."
After the verdict came out on Saturday night, protests popped up across the country. On Sunday, many cities across the country, from New York to San Francisco, saw marches as protesters continued to call for justice.
Online, so many people were signing a petition calling for Zimmerman to face federal prosecution that the NAACP's website crashed.
"I thought, at the very least, he would be convicted of manslaughter, especially in light of the fact that he was told by the 911 operator -- he being George Zimmerman -- to stay in the car," Levi-Pounds said. "Had he listened to that advice, I believe Trayvon Martin would still be alive today."
The voices of those who are upset with the verdict will likely grow louder. In fact, a local rally for those demanding justice for Trayvon Martin is planned for 6 p.m. at the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, and a large crowd is expected.
WJBK-TV | Fox 2
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