(Photo: REUTERS/Ed Linsmier)
Thousands of people participated in rallies at federal buildings in more than 100 cities in the United States on Saturday, about a week after the acquittal of the man who shot unarmed black teen Martin Trayvon, to demand justice and oppose self-defense laws.
"Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours," Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, told the crowd at a rally in New York, according to USA Today.
At another rally in Miami, Fla., Trayvon's father Tracy Martin addressed the protesters. "This could be any one of our children," he was quoted as saying. "Our mission now is to make sure that this doesn't happen to your child."
Trayvon's father also said he had vowed to his son when he was laying in his casket "that I would use every ounce of energy in my body to seek justice for him," according to The New York Times. He said he will continue to fight for Trayvon "until the day I die." He added: "Not only will I be fighting for Trayvon, I will be fighting for your child as well."
Last week, a jury in Florida acquitted neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. Zimmerman, son of white and Hispanic parents, shot 17-year-old Martin in February 2012. While the killing was widely seen as racially motivated, Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense.
The Justice Department is probing to see if Zimmerman can be charged for violating Trayvon's civil rights by shooting him.
Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network organized rallies called "Justice for Trayvon" across the nation.
In the peaceful rallies, people carried placards and banners, saying "I am Trayvon Martin." "Who's next?" "Enough Is Enough." The protesters attacked "stand-your-ground" self-defense laws, although Zimmerman's attorneys did not use that law in his defense.
"We are trying to change laws so that this never, ever happens again," Sharpton told the crowd in New York.
In Atlanta, Ga., the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. pastored, spoke to the protesters. "What's so frightening about a black man in a hood?" CBS News quoted him as saying.
"History would suggest that we have plenty of data to be worried when we see other folk moving through our neighborhoods in hoods," Warnock said. "Some of them have on pinstripe suits – but in their hearts, they're wearing a hood."
In Indianapolis, Pastor Michael K. Jones of Progressive Baptist Church said Zimmerman's acquittal "should be a wake-up call to us just like 9/11 was for all us in America." "Do you know what America did after 9/11? We made some changes," he was quoted as saying. "I came by today to tell someone 7/13 will never happen again."
President Barack Obama on Friday shared his own experiences as part of the African American community in an emotional address at the White House press room. "Trayvon Martin could've been me 35 years ago," 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. "There are very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars," he added. "That happens to me – at least before I was a senator."