Rallies have been held in US cities to protest the verdict in the death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The acquittal of his killer has sparked outrage and a renewed national discussion about racial profiling.
Demonstrations began around noon on the East Coast of the United States on Saturday, drawing hundreds who were calling for federal civil rights charges to be brought against George Zimmerman, the man responsible for death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“Trayvon was no burglar. He had a drink and some candy,” Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told 2,000 people gathered in New York on Saturday.
“He had every right to walk within that community to go back to the house where he came from,” she said.
Celebrities attended the protest in New York, including music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce.
Hundreds marched to rally at federal courthouses in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities, demanding “Justice for Trayvon.”
In Miami, Martin’s father, Tracy Martin told about 300 supporters of his son’s cause that, after the acquittal, he had “come to realize George Zimmerman wasn’t on trial – Trayvon was on trial.”
George Zimmerman, 29, has claimed self-defense in the February 2012 death of Martin. According his testimony, the teen accosted him while he was on neighborhood watch in his south Florida gated-community. Zimmerman says he fought back, fatally shooting the 17-year-old.
Martin’s family and friends, as well as many across the US have disputed the claim, arguing that Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, assumed the teenager was a criminal because of the color of his skin and his clothing.
A court in the town of Sanford, Florida, where the shooting occurred, acquitted Zimmerman last week.
‘Stand your ground’ law draws ire
The nationwide outrage over the acquittal handed down a week ago has prompted US Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama to pledge their commitment to re-evaluating a controversial self-defense law. The so-called “stand your ground” law – on the books in less than half of US states – gives a person the legal right to kill an attacker even if there is an opportunity to escape.
Both Obama and Holder have vowed to assess the correlation between racial profiling in the United States – a chronic problem believed to have led to the widespread mistreatment and, in some cases, deaths, of many African Americans by law enforcement officials – and the self-defense law.
“Racial profiling is not as bad as segregation, but you don’t know the humiliation of being followed in a department store,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist, told the rally in New York City. Obama gave a similar example on Friday during an unscheduled White House press conference.
“We are trying to change laws so that this never, ever happens again,” Sharpton said.
kms/mkg (AP, Reuters, dpa)