(Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
Pastors in Kansas City, Mo., where emotional outbursts were feared after the weekend's verdict in the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin, organized a prayer vigil on Sunday night to urge people to remain calm and embrace forgiveness.
"The greatest tragedy we can experience now is in our response to a violent act that we didn't feel justice was served is to create more violence," Pastor Chris Miller of Kansas City's Mercy Church told FOX 4 News hours before the prayer vigil at Kansas City's Freedom Fountain on Cleveland Avenue.
Pastor Miller said he was praying everyone would practise restraint, and that the vigil was organized by local church pastors for that reason.
Days before a jury found neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte had called for efforts to quell disturbances.
"Respect one's right to voice an opinion, but also respect another's right to be safe," Forte said in a statement. "I also ask everyone to work together to quell any disturbances that may arise. The police are ready to appropriately respond to whatever comes our way, and I am confident the people of Kansas City are, as well."
In February 2012, Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman's parents are white and Hispanic, and civil rights activists said the killing was racially motivated. However, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, said he shot Martin in self-defense.
Meanwhile, about 50 people gathered at the Kansas City's Freedom Fountain, also on Sunday night, to express their disappointment.
"There has to be something that sticks that is a platform to continue going on, man. So that we can have young black men that are OK walking the streets if we want to," Jesse Blakey of Kansas City was quoted as saying at the rally organized by Gatekeepers of KC.
Another rally is scheduled at the same park for Monday evening.
Demonstrations were reported from across the nation on Sunday, but pastors urged for peaceful responses.
"Many are disappointed today, we are devastated from what we like to call a punch in the mouth by the judicial system," Chicago Tribune quoted Pastor Ira Acree, who hosted a gathering of religious leaders Sunday at Greater St. John Bible Church in the North Austin neighborhood in Chicago, Ill., as saying. "We will fight back. Not with violence but with our voice. With discipline, with dignity and with restraint."