The case has become a nationwide sensation and ignited a furor against the police department of the Orlando suburb of Sanford, where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot last month. It has prompted rallies around the country calling for an arrest of the Hispanic shooter.
At a recent town hall meeting in Sanford, officials from the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Nation of Islam urged residents to remain calm but demanded a thorough investigation into the shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman.
“I stand here as a son, father, uncle who is tired of being scared for our boys,’’ said Benjamin Jealous, national president of the NAACP. “I’m tired of telling our young men how they can’t dress, where they can’t go and how they can’t behave.”
Zimmerman has not been charged in the Feb. 26 shooting and has said he shot Martin — who was returning to a gated community where his father’s financée lives, after buying candy at a convenience store — in self-defense after Martin attacked him. Police said Zimmerman, who was found bleeding from his nose and the back of his head, told authorities he yelled for help before shooting Martin.
“The JACL is deeply troubled by the Sanford Police Department’s indifferent response. The case has exposed the burden shouldered by young black men in our society, who are tainted by assumptions of being suspicious, criminal and dangerous,” said the JACL in a statement. “Justice must be served in this case because our country cannot abide the continuing specter of a society that causes young black men to feel the oppression of fear rather than the safety of knowing that they are free to be who they are.”
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