“We are determined to meet division and confusion with understanding and compassion — and also with truth,” he said. “We are resolved, as you are, to combat violence involving or directed at young people, to prevent future tragedies and to deal with the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and stereotypes that serve as the basis for these too common incidents. And we will never stop working to ensure that — in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community — justice must be done.”
Holder appeared at the Washington Convention Center, where the predominantly African American sorority is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its 1913 founding by 22 women at Howard University in the District.
On Tuesday, Holder travels to Florida to address the NAACP’s annual convention in Orlando, a short drive from the Sanford, Fla., courthouse where Zimmerman was found not guilty Saturday night of charges that he murdered unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin last year.
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama would have no comment about the Justice Department investigation. Asked whether Obama is feeling pressure to weigh in, Carney said, “Cases are brought on the merits, and the merits are evaluated by the professionals at the Department of Justice.”
Amid the sorority’s celebration, Holder said in his speech, “we are also mindful of the pain felt by our nation surrounding the tragic, unnecessary shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, last year, and we are cognizant of the fact that the state trial reached its conclusion over the weekend.”
Noting that “the Deltas are deeply, and rightly, concerned about this case,” he added, to applause: “The Justice Department shares your concern — I share your concern — and, as we first acknowledged last spring, we have opened an investigation into the matter.”
He said the tragedy provides an opportunity for the nation “to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally-charged issues that this case has raised.” This opportunity “to better understand one another and to make better this nation we cherish” must not be allowed to pass, Holder said.
According to an Obama administration official, Holder will speak about the case in greater depth in his speech to the NAACP in Florida.
The verdict triggered objections from civil rights organizations and scattered demonstrations across the country by protesters who want Zimmerman held accountable for Martin’s death.