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Obama calls for reflection after Zimmerman acquittal

US President Barack Obama has urged people to "respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," after a Florida court cleared George Zimmerman of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin.

Describing the death of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February last year as a tragedy, "not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America," Barack Obama appealed for people to remain calm after a court in Sandford, Florida, found that Martin's killer was acting in self-defense.

"I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know these passions may be running even higher," Obama said in his statement.

Watch video 01:10

Emotions run high after Zimmerman verdict

"But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," the president continued. It is unusual for the White House to issue statements on individual court cases without a direct link to the president or the federal government.

Jurors deliberated for 16 hours over two days before issuing the not guilty verdict late on Saturday, in a case where they were allowed to choose either not guilty, guilty of second-degree murder or guilty of manslaughter.

Self-defense or profiling?

Defendant George Zimmerman, now 29, claimed that he shot Martin once in the chest in self-defense, saying that Martin had attacked him on the street on February 26, 2012. The neighborhood watch volunteer had observed Martin in a gated community at night, rang the local police department to express his concern, and then came to blows with the teenager shortly after the phone call. Police later found him with injuries to his nose and the back of his head.

Critics of Saturday's verdict argued that Zimmerman had profiled Martin, suspecting him because he was black, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and was out walking in the rain.

One Sunday protest, among several around the country, was held at New York's Union Square where some of more than 200 attendees held signs with messages like: "Justice for Trayvon, Jail for Zimmerman."

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara had said after the trial that while he was delighted with the verdict, his client Zimmerman might never be able to regain a normal life.

"There still is a fringe element that wants revenge," O'Mara said. "They won't listen to a verdict of not guilty."

Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., said on CNN on Sunday that: "He's going to be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life."

Obama concluded his Sunday statement by calling on people to ask themselves "if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis."

msh/av (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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