Demonstrations Across the Country Commemorate Trayvon Martin

(Photo Credit: Monica Almeida/The New York Times)
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in dozens of cities today to mourn Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot to death in a confrontation with a neighborhood watch volunteer early last year, and to add their voices to a debate on race that his death has set off. The gatherings began around noon EST at federal buildings across the country.  They came a week after George Zimmerman was acquitted by a court in Florida of Mr. Martin’s killing; days after angry protests erupted in the wake of that verdict; and hours after President Obama said, in a heartfelt address, that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

Mr. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, addressing dozens of people outside the federal courthouse in Miami, said, “I vowed to Trayvon when he was laying in his casket that I would use every ounce of energy in my body to seek justice for him.  

“I will continue to fight for Trayvon until the day I die,” he added. “Not only will I be fighting for Trayvon, I will be fighting for your child as well.”  At a rally in New York, over cries of “We’re all Trayvon Martin,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the organizers of the gatherings, told a crowd of hundreds that Mr. Martin’s death should prompt a movement.  Mr. Sharpton said that he wanted to ensure an aggressive federal investigation of Mr. Zimmerman and fight against Florida’s broad self-defense laws. “Last Saturday we cried,” he said, “but this Saturday we march.”

Mr. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who also attended the New York rally, said “We have moved on from the verdict.”  

“Of course we’re hurting,” she told the crowd, “of course we’re shocked and disappointed, but that just means that we have to roll up our sleeves and continue to fight.”  At similar rallies in Atlanta, Washington, Los Angeles and other cities large and small, crowds of hundreds held up signs reading “I am not a suspect” and “Trayvon Martin has civil rights.”

“Before Trayvon Martin, we took precautions, but now it’s worse,” said Isabel Eugene, 16, at the rally in Miami. “It could have been my brother.”  Last Saturday, after three weeks of testimony, a six-woman jury rejected the prosecution argument that Mr. Zimmerman had deliberately pursued Mr. Martin because he presumed the teenager was a criminal and instigated the fight that led to the killing.

Mr. Zimmerman said he shot Mr. Martin in self-defense after the teenager knocked him to the ground, punched him and slammed his head repeatedly against the sidewalk. In finding him not guilty of murder or manslaughter, the jury agreed that Mr. Zimmerman could have been justified in shooting Mr. Martin because he feared great bodily harm or death.

The Department of Justice restarted a federal investigation into the case after the acquittal to determine whether the evidence “reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes,” it said in a statement.

To win a conviction, the government would have to prove that Mr. Zimmerman acted willfully to violate Mr. Martin’s civil rights, those familiar with such cases have said.

article by Ravi Somaiya via nytimes.com; Emily Beason-Veal contributed reporting from Miami, Alan Blinder from Atlanta and Mona El-Naggar from New York.

 

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