As a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman on Saturday night of all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, the crowd mainly made up of Martin supporters gathered outside the courthouse in Sanford fell silent.
As the verdict sank in, the supporters shared their frustration.
Melinda O'Neal of Daytona, Fla., held her three small children close and told them she loved them.
"I really didn't think he was going to get off," she said. "It's injustice."
Around her were people, young and old, carrying "Justice 4 Trayvon" signs, chanting, "The system failed us" and "No justice, no peace."
Zimmerman, 29, is a former neighborhood-watch volunteer who shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old in February 2012. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder, saying he acted in self-defense.
The incident unleashed a debate across the U.S. over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. Saturday's verdict is not likely to quell those discussions.
"We lost a young man due to senseless violence, but justice did not prevail," Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida NAACP State Conference, said in a statement.
As the trial wound down this week, Florida law enforcement braced for unrest that might follow an acquittal, but the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said the situation was calm around the courthouse immediately after the verdict was read.
"It's very quiet so far," spokeswoman Kim Cannaday told Reuters, about 30 minutes after the verdict was handed down.
Tee Stern said she came from Georgia to show her support for Martin's family.
"George Zimmerman is a cold-blooded murderer," she said. "The Martin family are very brave and extremely courageous."
Veronica Antonio Juarez of Tampa echoed her thoughts: "We are demanding national protest until we get justice,” she said.
Several Zimmerman supporters were also outside the courthouse, including a brother and sister quietly rejoicing that Zimmerman was acquitted. Both thought the jury made the right decision in finding Zimmerman not guilty — they felt that Zimmerman killed Martin in self-defense.
Cindy Lenzen, 50, of Casslebury, Fla., and her brother, 52-year-old Chris Bay, stood watching the protesters chant slogans such as, "The whole system's guilty."
Lenzen and Bay called the entire case "a tragedy," especially for Zimmerman.
"It's a tragedy that he's going to suffer for the rest of his life," Bay said. "No one wins either way. This is going to be a recurring nightmare in his mind every night."
Authorities in Martin's hometown of Miami said the streets were quiet, with no indication of problems. The neighborhood where Martin's father lives in Miami Gardens was equally quiet.
Beyond Florida, trial watchers responded to the verdict.
"The death of Trayvon Martin shows that we must all work harder to shed the dangerous stereotypes that can have devastating consequences for individuals, families and our society," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement.
In San Francicso, NBC Bay Area reported that about 200 people had gathered to protest peacefully in the city's Mission District. Similar assemblies also had occurred in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Both Martin's and Zimmerman's families had appealed for calm ahead of a verdict.
“Tracy and Sybrina are thankful for all those prayers over the past 17 months since the death of their son,” Benjamin Crump, co-counsel for Martin's family, said following the verdict. "For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful.”
Among others calling for peace was the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who tweeted: "Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies. Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair."
"We are saddened and disappointed by this decision. It is a pattern involving young black men that is too often repeating itself," Jackson subsequently wrote.
The pain was evident in a message posted by Trayvon's father, Tracy, who tweeted: "Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY"
For Zimmerman's family, the verdict brought relief.
"Message from Dad: "Our whole family is relieved. Today... I'm proud to be an American. God Bless America! Thank you for your prayers!" Zimmerman's brother, Robert, said in Twitter post.
He later said on CNN, "I don't think this is a time for high-fiving."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published July 13 2013, 9:58 PM