‘Justice for Trayvon’ rallies held nationwide
“We’re trying to change laws so that this never happens again,” said Sharpton.
The Florida case has become a focal point in separate but converging national debates on self-defense, guns, and racial relations. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed to be protecting himself when he shot Martin, identified himself as Hispanic. Martin was black.
“It’s personal,” said Chris Donegan of Cincinnati, whose 11-year-old son wore a black hoodie to the rally like Martin did when he died. ” Anyone who is black with children, Trayvon Martin became our son. ”
Most rallies started around noon. In New York, hundreds of people – including music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce – gathered in the heat.
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told the New York crowd that she was determined to fight for the social and legal changes needed to ensure that black teens are no longer viewed with suspicion because of their skin color.
“I promise I will work for your children too,” she said.
During a morning appearance at Sharpton headquarters in Harlem, she begged people to understand that the tragedy involved more than just Martin. “Today it was my son. Tomorrow it could be yours, ” she said.
Stand Your Ground laws are on the books in more than 20 states, going beyond many older, traditional self-defense laws. Generally, the laws remove a person’s obligation to withdraw in the face of a serious physical threat.
Zimmerman did not rely on the Florida Stand Your Ground Act, but relied on a traditional self-defense argument. The breed was also not discussed in front of the jury, which acquitted Zimmerman. But the two issues dominated the public discourse on the case and were raised during the rallies.
Some of Sharpton’s comments echoed President Obama’s comments on Friday’s case. “Racial profiling isn’t as bad as segregation, but you don’t know the humiliation of being followed in a department store,” Sharpton said.
In Indianapolis, Rev. Jeffrey Johnson told about 200 participants that the nationwide effort is about making the lives of young black men safer. Johnson said young black men are still at risk from racial profiling, and compared Zimmerman’s acquittal to four white officers flogging black motorist Rodney King in 1992.
“The verdict released George Zimmerman, but condemned America even more,” said Johnson, pastor of Indianapolis’ Eastern Star Church and board member of the National Action Network.
In Miami, Tracy Martin spoke about his son.
“It could be one of our children,” he said. “Our mission now is to make sure that this doesn’t happen to your child.”