Demonstrators took to the streets in dozens of US cities on Saturday to vent their anger over the acquittal in Florida of the man who shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin to death and to call for federal charges in the racially tinged case.
Hundreds marched in the summer heat to rally at federal courthouses in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities, demanding “justice for Trayvon” and an end to racial profiling that they said was at the heart of the case.
The rallies came one week after a Seminole County, Florida, jury returned verdicts finding 29-year-old George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death in February last year of Martin.
Critics contend Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, wrongly suspected Martin, 17, of being a criminal because he was black.
In New York, scene of one of the largest rallies, roughly 2,000 protesters, some carrying “Boycott Florida” signs or wearing T-shirts with Martin’s picture, were led by an emotional Sybrina Fulton, the slain teenager’s mother.
“Trayvon was a child,” she said. “I think sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle because as I sat in the courtroom, it made me think they were talking about another man. And it wasn’t. It was a child.”
She was joined at the event by hip-hop mogul Jay Z and his wife, pop star Beyonce, along with New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn and civil rights activist Al Sharpton.
At the White House on Friday, US President Barack Obama sided with those who say the shooting need not have happened, expressing sympathy to the Martin family.
Following the main event in New York about 800 people made a boisterous, but peaceful procession over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Elsewhere, about 2,000 people endured a downpour in Atlanta to hear speakers talk of the need for justice for Trayvon Martin and other black youths.
Martin Luther King III urged the audience to go to Washington on Aug. 24 for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and his father’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“It’s marching time, ladies and gentlemen,” he said.
At a rally in Miami, Martin’s father, Tracy, told supporters that after the acquittal he has “come to realize George Zimmerman wasn’t on trial — Trayvon was on trial.”
In Los Angeles, about 500 people converged on the federal courthouse in Los Angeles under gray skies, toting signs saying “Open Season on the Black Man” and “This Should Not Be OK in 2013 America.”
In Chicago, about 500 people rallied across from the Everett McKinley Dirksen federal courthouse.
In Oakland, a crowd of up to 150 people demonstrated peacefully in the city’s downtown, occasionally singing We Shall Overcome before dispersing in the late afternoon.
And across the bay in San Francisco, about 100 people gathered in front of the Federal Building.
Arnold Townsend, 70, vice president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter, vowed to “bring to light this incident [and] let black children know the system has them under attack.”