Celebrities, civil rights activists and relatives of Trayvon Martin got together at a church in Los Angeles, Calif., Thursday to mark the two-month anniversary of the Florida black teen's killing by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
"There are Trayvons all over this country," The Associated Press quoted the Rev. Al Sharpton as telling the cheering crowd at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ Thursday evening. "What kind of world are we living in that we can put a black man in the White House, but a black man can't walk through a gated community?" he asked.
The Rev. Jessie Jackson and some celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Magic Johnson and Paul Rodriguez, were among those who attended the rally to bring attention to cases similar to that of 17-year-old Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida on Feb. 26.
The rally was organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, to "advocate for crime victims and their families of senseless crimes; educate young people on conflict resolution techniques; increase public awareness against all forms of profiling; and enact the Trayvon Martin legislation to prevent the inappropriate application of the stand your ground principles."
The family of Kendrec McDade, an unarmed 19-year-old college student who was shot to death in March by two Pasadena police officers who were responding to what turned out to be a false report of an armed robbery, also participated in the rally.
Zimmerman was not arrested initially as he claimed he acted in self-defense. He was later arrested on April 11 on second-degree murder charges, but was released on a $150,000 bond on April 22. On Zimmerman's arrest, NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement, "As we have seen, the system does not always work perfectly. But we have shown that when we stand together as a nation we can compel it to work." He added that Trayvon was profiled because of his race, "looked upon as a threat rather than the loving son he was."
"And then, once he became a victim, he was neglected by the very police department tasked with protecting our communities and families."
Martin's family believes the 28-year-old watch volunteer targeted the unarmed teen out of racism. Many believe Martin's killing was a racist attack because Zimmerman reportedly made racially-charged statements on a 911 call. Martin, who was carrying a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea, was returning to his father's fiancée's house in Sanford, Fla., from a convenience store at the time of the incident.
Comedian Rodriguez called on Latinos and blacks not to be divided by the Martin death. "They're afraid of us because they don't know us" he was quoted as saying at the Thursday's rally. "Let this not separate us."
Meanwhile, Zimmerman's defense lawyer Mark O'Mara Thursday announced that a website set up to fund his client's defense had raised more than $200,000.