Accessibility links

Shooting of Unarmed Black Teenager Ignites Protests in Several US Communities

  • Chris Simkins

Protest rallies and marches continue across the United States with calls for legal action in the shooting death of an unarmed African American teenager by a white, Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer a month ago. Police did not arrest the shooter or charge him with a crime. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible hate crime charges in connection with the shooting and a state grand jury plans to meet April 10 to consider all the evidence in the case.

New details have emerged that offer support to George Zimmerman's claims that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self defense.

"George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose and had an injury to the back of his head. He was attacked by Trayvon Martin on that evening," said Craig Sonner, the neighborhood watch volunteer's attorney.

A friend, Joe Oliver, says Zimmerman gave him a similar account.

"Trayvon came up behind George and asked him what was going on, if he had a problem? After George responded, 'No, I don't have a problem,' as he reached for his phone, that's when Trayvon cold-cocked [surprise punched] him," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman initially spotted Martin on the night of February 26 walking through this gated community in Sanford, Florida. He called police emergency:

"This guy looks like he is up to no good or he's on drugs or something," he said in the call.

Police told Zimmerman not to follow the teenager, but later Zimmerman says Martin confronted him.

Again Zimmerman's friend, Joe Oliver:

"George had no intention of taking anybody's life. He cried for days after that [the shooting] happened," Oliver said.

Police have not charged Zimmerman with a crime because of a Florida self-defense law that gives people the right to protect themselves with deadly force.

Martin's death has sparked a national outcry. Many protesters wear hooded sweatshirts, known as hoodies, in memory of the 17-year-old boy. He was wearing a hoodie the night he died.

"That could have been my son. It could have been anybody's son, so you know someone has to be Trayvon's voice because his voice was silenced," said Jamie Jones, a protester from Nashville, Tennessee.

"It tears me apart to sit here and listen to the slander they are giving my son," said Martin's father.

As the protests have grown in size and intensity Martin's parents maintain race was a factor in their son's death and say they want George Zimmerman arrested.

"I know that I cannot bring my baby back but I am sure going to fight for changes so that this does not happen to another family," said Martin's mother, Sabryna Fulton.

The shooting case has captured the nation's attention. And these protesters say they will continue to demonstrate as a symbolic sign of solidarity for Trayvon Martin.