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20 Jul, 2013 13:21

'Justice for Trayvon': Rallies hit 100 cities

Thousands of people have participated in rallies in more than 100 cities across the US, calling for "justice for Trayvon Martin" after jury's decision last week found George Zimmerman not guilty of shooting unarmed black teenager dead.

Follow RT's LIVE UPDATES on Zimmerman verdict protests

Trayvon Martin’s parents also joined the protests organized by the veteran civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton to push the US Justice Department to bring a civil rights case against Zimmerman.

Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton was leading the Saturday rally along with Sharpton just outside police headquarters in New York. 

Beyoncé, Jay Z and Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin's Mother) #JusticeForTrayvonpic.twitter.com/L1R0azdo9e

— Beyonce Lite (@BeyonceLite) July 20, 2013

About 500 people cheered as rapper Jaz-Z and his wife, the singer Beyonce, took to the stage. 

Fulton told the crowd that she was determined to fight for changes in society and in the law to ensure that back youths are no longer viewed with suspicion because of the color of their skin.

"I promise you I'm going to work for your children as well. Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours," she said to the crowd. 

People demonstrate in Washington on July 20, 2013, one week after the acquittal of George Zimmerman (AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm)

Sharpton told supporters that he wants to see an end to the stand-your-ground self-defense laws, which allowed Zimmerman to walk free.

"We are trying to change these laws so that this never, ever happens again," he said.

He also said that he wants the Justice Department to pursue a federal civil rights case against Zimmerman. 

"We are not coming out with violence, we are coming to denounce violence. The violence that was perpetrated against an unarmed, innocent man named Trayvon Martin," the protest organizer stressed.

Following the main event in New York, around 800 people made a noisy, but peaceful procession over the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, appeared at the demonstration in Miami, where Trayvon lived with his mother and older brother.

A crowd of around 500 people gathered around him singing the civil rights protest song 'We Shall Overcome'.

Martin said he would be fighting to change Florida's 'Stand Your Ground laws' as “our promise to our son's memory."  

"Trayvon could have been anyone's child. That's the message that's being sent to the world," he added.

#TrayvonMartin's father, Tracy, speaking at #rally outside downtown Miami courthouse. PHOTO: @EmilyMichotpic.twitter.com/5POiT0UNhx

— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) July 20, 2013

Despite the heavy rain, about 2,000 people took part in the 'Justice for Trayvon Martin' rally in Atlanta.

The protesters blocked traffic on downtown streets, chanting slogans: “We won't forget” and “No justice! No peace!''

Signs, saying: “I am Trayvon Martin,” “Enough Is Enough,” “Who's next?” were on display, with many people also singing hymns, praying and holding hands.   

In Indianapolis, Pastor Jeffrey Johnson told 200 attendees that the nationwide 'Justice for Trayvon Martin' action is aimed at making life safer for young black men, who are still endangered by racial profiling.

"The verdict freed George Zimmerman, but it condemned America more,"
a member of the board of directors of the National Action Network said.

About 500 people gathered at the federal courthouse in Los Angeles, carrying signs saying "Open Season on the Black Man" and "This Should Not Be OK in 2013 America."

Around 1,000 rallied in Washington and another 500 supported the action in Chicago, with smaller demonstrations taking place in dozens of cities and towns across America.

But despite mass rallies, the chances of George Zimmerman being prosecuted again are relatively low, a legal expert from Stetson University in Florida, Charles Rose, told RT.
“If they’re going to get this back in court again it’s going to be difficult to do because the civil rights law requires that he’d be a state actor and there’s no indication that Zimmerman was an employee of the state government during that time frame,” he said. “The other option would be to charge it as a hate crime under the Shepard Act. The problem there is that we just don’t have evidence that it was a hate motivated crime. If there had been such evidence, it would’ve been presented in the state trial that just concluded.”

Previously, Sharpton announced that the protests would take place in more than 100 cities throughout America and expressed hope that they would be peaceful.

Earlier this week, protests against the ruling in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay turned violent, resulting in a number of arrests.

Trayvon Martin was shot dead over a year ago by Zimmerman, who claimed he acted in self-defense. The prosecution argued that Zimmerman was guilty of second-degree murder, stating that he racially profiled the unarmed teen and assumed he was a criminal when he saw him walking through a gated community in Sanford, Florida. They further claimed that Zimmerman tracked the teenager down and started the fight that led to the shooting.

Reuters / Andrew Innerarity

On July 13, Zimmerman, whose voter registration record listed him as hispanic, was acquitted of all charges relating to the fatal shooting of the black teen by a panel of six women jurors. The former neighborhood watch volunteer could have been sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder or up to 30 years for manslaughter if he was found guilty.

Zimmerman’s acquittal sparked nationwide protests last weekend as thousands took to the streets in major American cities protesting against the verdict and related issues regarding race, profiling and vigilantism.

Federal prosecutors are pursuing an investigation into whether Zimmerman violated civil rights laws, but civil rights experts doubt new charges are likely.

On Thursday Florida Governor Rick Scott met with sit-in demonstrators outside his office in Tallahassee. He said he supports the Stand Your Ground law and has no intention of convening a special legislative session to change the self-defense statute that have been adopted in 30 states.

On Friday American President Barack Obama warned the public against violence while protesting.

He agreed that “There is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws,” and that “If a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario ... both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.”

“Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago,” Obama said.