Hundreds of people attended peaceful vigils in several US cities today to protest a not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
The protests called to press for federal action in the emotionally charged case drew small but fervent crowds in New York,Washington and Miami where the slain teen’s father spoke.
“The death of my son,we believe,has to make changes in our society and repeal the laws that allow to kill somebody just because someone thinks (he) is suspect,” Tracy Martin said in Miami.
Superstar couple Jay Z and Beyonce joined a crowd of several thousand at a Manhattan rally addressed by Trayvon’s mother,Sybrina Fulton,and civil rights leader Al Sharpton.
Briefly overcome with emotion as she thanked the crowd for turning out,Fulton vowed to keep fighting to ensure her son’s death leads to meaningful change but pleaded for campaigners to ensure the protests did not spill over into unrest.
“Trayvon would be proud,” she told the crowd. “Not only do I have to do what I have to do for Trayvon,I’m going to work for your children as well.”
In Miami,between 300 and 500 people turned out for the rally outside the city’s civic center,wearing T-shirts with pictures of Trayvon and messages like “We want justice,equal justice.”
But a heavy downpour dispersed the crowd just after noon,and some participants expressed disappointment at the small turnout near the historic African American neighbourhood of Overton.
“You see only black people,when this should be a Hispanic,white issue,” said Marie Falaise,39,a Miami resident born in Haiti.
The protests came a day after President Barack Obama publicly identified with the slain 17-year-old and the deep frustrations felt among African Americans over the verdict.
“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told reporters yesterday. The president’s remarks his most expansive since a Florida jury’s decision one week ago to acquit neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was applauded by many at today’s vigils.
Praising the “incredible grace and dignity” shown by Martin’s parents through the ordeal,Obama said “some soul-searching” on race was in order and it was understandable that there be protests and vigils. But he said a resort to violence would “dishonor” Martin’s death.
The 29-year-old Zimmerman,who said he acted in self defense,fatally shot Martin in the chest on the rainy night of February 26,2012,during an altercation in a gated community in Sanford,Florida.