Crowds chanted “Justice! Justice!” as they rallied in dozens of U.S. cities on Saturday, urging authorities to change self-defence laws and press federal civil rights charges George Zimmerman.
The National Action Network, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist, organised the “Justice for Trayvon” rallies on Saturday outside federal buildings in more than 100 cities — one week after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the February 2012 shooting death.
The case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defence, guns, and race relations. Mr. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself , identifies himself as Hispanic. Martin was black.
In Atlanta, speakers noted that the rally took place in the shadows of federal buildings named for two figures with vastly differing views on civil rights and racial equality: Richard B. Russell, a Georgia Governor and U.S. senator elected when racial segregation was practiced in southern U.S. states; the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the face of African-Americans’ civil rights movement.
In New York, hundreds of people, including Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton, and music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce gathered in the heat. In addition to pushing the Justice Department to investigate civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman, Rev. Sharpton told supporters in New York that he wants to see a rollback of stand-your-ground self-defence laws. Mr. Zimmerman didn’t invoke stand-your-ground, relying instead on a traditional self-defence argument, but the judge included a provision of the law in her instructions to the jurors, allowing them to consider it as a legitimate defence. Neither was race discussed in front of the jury. But the two topics have dominated public discourse in the last one week, and came up throughout Saturday’s rallies.
In Miami, Tracy Martin spoke about his son. “This could be any one of our children,” he said.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his department would investigate whether Mr. Zimmerman could be charged under federal civil rights laws, which would require evidence for racial animosity on his part.
This would be a difficult charge to prove. His lawyers have said their client wasn’t driven by race, but by a desire to protect his neighbourhood. — AP