Ira Acree spent two hours passing out fliers in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago, hoping to spread the word about a “Justice for Trayvon” vigil at noon Saturday — one of at least 100 planned in cities across the nation. On the way back to his car, Acree, a pastor, spotted a television in the lobby of the parking garage. A crowd had gathered in front, as if “watching the football game,” Acree said. President Obama was speaking.
In his first comments since a six-woman jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Obama spoke frankly and reflectively, relating his experiences with race and racial profiling. “Trayvon Martin could have been me,” the President said. Obama’s earnest words moved Acree almost to tears. “I just think that the president’s words may help whites across the nation at least understand us,” Acree said. “And be a little bit more emphathetic toward our actions tomorrow.” Acree chairs the board of a social justice group in Chicago called the Leader’s Network, which is helping organize Saturday’s vigil.
The 100-city “Justice for Trayvon” vigils, which the Rev. Al Sharpton announced Tuesday on the steps of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., will be staged mostly at federal court buildings across the country. In California, rallies are scheduled in Los Angeles, Oakland, Palmdale, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco and the Monterey County city of Seaside. Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Martin’s brother, Jahvaris, will attend a rally in New York City, along with Sharpton. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is attending a vigil in Miami.
With the vigils, organizers are hoping to build momentum for the filing of federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. A day after the jury delivered a not-guilty verdict, Sharpton’s civil rights organization, the National Action Network, held a conference call with local organizers.