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Across US, people rally for ‘Justice for Trayvon’ ATLANTA (AP) — One week after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, people gathered for nationwide rallies to press for changes to self-defense laws and for federal civil rights charges against the former neighborhood watch leader. The Florida case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over selfdefense, guns, and race relations. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself when he shot Martin, identifies himself as Hispanic. Martin was black. “It’s personal,” said Cincinnati resident Chris Donegan, whose 11-yearold son wore a black hoodie to the rally, as Martin did when he died. “Anybody who is black with kids, Trayvon Martin became our son.” The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and vigils outside federal buildings in at least 101 cities: from New York and Los Angeles to Wichita, Kan., and Atlanta, where people stood in the rain at the base of the federal courthouse, with traffic blocked on surrounding downtown streets. Chants rang out across the rallies. “Justice! Jus-
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
A likeness of Trayvon Martin is held up during a rally on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized “Justice for Trayvon” rallies nationwide to press for federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
tice! Justice! ... Now! Now! Now!” ‘’We won’t forget.” ‘’No justice! No peace!” Many also sang hymns, prayed and held hands. And plenty of participants carried signs: “Who’s next?” “I am Trayvon Martin.” ‘’Enough Is Enough.” Most rallies began at noontime. In New York, hundreds of people — including music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce, as well as Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton — gathered in the heat. Fulton told the crowd
she was determined to fight for societal and legal changes needed to ensure that black youths are no longer viewed with suspicion because of their skin color. “I promise you I’m going to work for your children as well,” she said to the rally crowd. At a morning appearance at Sharpton’s headquarters in Harlem, she implored people to understand that the tragedy involved more than Martin alone. “Today it was my
son. Tomorrow it might be yours,” she said. In addition to pushing the Justice Department to investigate civil rights charges against Zimmerman, Sharpton told supporters he wants to see a rollback of stand-yourground self-defense laws. “We are trying to change laws so that this never, ever happens again,” Sharpton said. Stand-your-ground laws are on the books in more than 20 states, and they go beyond many older, traditional self-defense statutes. In general, the laws eliminate a person’s duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical threat. Zimmerman relied on a traditional self-defense argument and didn’t invoke stand-your-ground, though the judge included a provision about it in instructions allowing jurors to consider it as a legitimate defense. And race wasn’t discussed in front of the jury. But the two topics have dominated public discourse about the case, and came up throughout Saturday’s rallies. Part of Sharpton’s comments echoed those made by President Barack Obama on the case Friday. “Racial profiling is not as bad as segregation, but you don’t know the humiliation of being followed in a department store,” Sharpton said.
Sunday, July 21, 2013 — 7C
Obama opens up about race, Trayvon Martin trial
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama kept his own counsel after the six women deciding whether George Zimmerman deserved prison time for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin delivered their verdict, releasing just a written statement appealing for calm the day after the exneighborhood watchman had been cleared of all charges. But the president was quietly keeping tabs on the country’s response to the outcome of the racially charged trial, particularly in the black community. He discussed it with his family. He was ready to address it during a series of interviews with Spanish-language TV stations earlier in the week, if asked. He wasn’t. By Thursday, aides said Obama was telling top advisers the country needed to hear from him, not in a way the White House would script it but in a frank discussion of his views and experiences as a black man in America. On Friday, he stepped up to the podium in the White House briefing room and delivered a rare and extensive reflection on race by a president who has shied away from the issue even as he is constantly dogged by it. “When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” For Obama, the product of black-white parentage who has written about his own struggles with racial identity but has kept the subject at arm’s length in office, his remarks represented an unusual embrace of his standing as the nation’s first black president and of the longing by many black Americans for him to give voice to their experiences. “When you think about why, in the AfricanAmerican community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that ... doesn’t go away,” he said. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” Obama said.
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