Protesters take to the streets in US after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin

Protesters have taken to the streets in the US as black community leaders demanded that the authorities pursue a federal civil rights case against George Zimmerman, who shot dead Trayvon Martin but was acquitted of the teenager's murder.

In Los Angeles, police fired non-lethal – bean bag – baton rounds after demonstrators threw rocks and batteries at officers. One person was arrested but police emphasised that most of the protesters were peaceful. Streets were closed off in the city, as well as in San Francisco, where people marched to condemn Zimmerman's acquittal.

In New York, hundreds of protesters marched into Times Square on Sunday night after starting out in Union Square, zigzagging through the streets to avoid police lines. Marchers carried signs and chanted "Justice for Trayvon Martin!" and "No justice, no peace!" as tourists looked on. 

Beyoncé called for a moment of silence for Trayvon during a concert in Nashville, Tennessee, while rapper Young Jeezy released a song in Trayvon's memory. Protests have been relatively small in scale so far, easing fears that violent unrest would follow the widespread outrage over the verdict.

Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) – the US's largest black advocacy group – said the case in which Zimmerman, who is of mixed white-Hispanic parentage, followed then shot Trayvon dead met the benchmark for an inquiry by the department of justice.

Although the jury in Sanford, Florida, accepted Zimmerman's argument that he acted in self-defence when he killed Trayvon on 26 February last year, he was caught on a recording of a call to police using the words "fucking punks" and "these assholes, they always get away".

Jealous said: "When you look at his comments and when you look at comments made by young black men who lived in that neighbourhood about how they felt especially targeted by him, there is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why he targeted young Trayvon."

A number of peaceful rallies and church gatherings were held in Miami, Martin's home town, and in Sanford, one of which was attended by Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. Trayvon's parents were not in court on Saturday night to hear the jury's verdict.

Zimmerman smiling after the verdict was read