The hearing room was packed with dozens of people, including a handful of young men in hooded sweatshirts. More people sat in an overflow room. Sometimes this crowd would burst into applause or give verbal affirmations as the men passionately spoke. Dozens of cameras clicked away.
Martin was killed in February 2012, as he walked home from a convenience store with a can of iced tea and pack of Skittles. He was a African-American teenager wearing a hoodie and walking through a gated townhouse community that had recently suffered several break-ins. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, became suspicious, called the police and followed Martin. A confrontation ensued. Zimmerman fired his gun. Martin died. Earlier this month, a jury found Zimmerman not guilty.
Beyond the legal issues, this case set off heated discussions about the societal problems facing young black men like Martin. Last week, President Obama spoke about the context and emotion surrounding the ruling.
“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.“
Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, told the caucus that Obama’s comments were “so important” in guiding the national conversation.
“It sparks the conversation in every household, over the dinner table, and that conversation is: What can we do as parents? What can we do as men? What can we do as fathers? What can we do as mentors to stop this from happening to your child,” Martin said. “And I think that’s where the conversation begins.”
Martin’s relatives have established a foundation in his memory and are speaking out on gun and race issues. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, is expected to speak at the National Urban League’s annual conference in Philadelphia this week.
An attorney for the Martin family, Benjamin Crump, called upon the Department of Justice to get involved with this case and asked officials clarify stand-your-ground laws that allow individuals in some states to use force to defend themselves.
“Can a private citizen with a 9-millimeter gun profile our children, get out of his car and follow our children, and confront our children?” Crump said. “We need to have that question answered so that we know what to tell our children.”