|public domain photo|
BRADENTON -- As news spread of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin on Saturday evening, people throughout Florida and the U.S flocked to the streets in protest. From Sanford, FL, where Martin was shot dead February 26, 2012, to San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, Sacramento and Chicago, Americans congregated in large numbers to show peaceful dissent. Both President Obama and Governor Rick Scott issued statements on the verdict.
Many cities braced for riots that never came. Still, thousands filled the streets, many carrying signs that read: We are all Trayvon. The protests ran through the weekend and vigils were still being held Monday in some locations.
President Obama said:
"The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin."
Gov. Rick Scott said: “As a father and a grandfather, my thoughts and prayers remain with Trayvon Martin's family and all those affected by his death. Our judicial process is a sacred part of the fabric of our country; and the more difficult the decision, the more we must value this important American institution."
The last known image of Martin, taken
by family just days before his death.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed on Monday that the Justice Department was continuing to investigate Martin's death, following the Florida acquittal of Zimmerman. Holder said Martin's death was "tragic and unnecessary," and that the department would act "consistent with the facts and the law."
The Justice Department could try Zimmerman under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Under the act, bodily injury is a federal crime if “committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person.”
Legal experts, however, have suggested that a conviction under such civil rights statutes would be even more difficult to secure. Martin's family also has the option of bringing a "wrongful death" civil suit against Zimmerman, where the threshold is less than criminal court - "preponderance of evidence" as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt."
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