MIAMI (CBS4) – Well known civil rights leader, and sometimes controversial activist, Rev. Jesse Jackson is not one known for holding his tongue.
On Monday, he was in South Florida to attend a rally at Miami Central High School which encouraged students to register and vote. Before leaving he sat down and spoke exclusively to CBS4’s Jawan Strader about the death of Trayvon Martin, the 20th Anniversary of the LA Riots, Haiti and President Barack Obama.
Martin, a Miami Gardens teen, was shot and killed last February by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman as he walked through a gated town home community in Sanford. Initially police did not charge Zimmerman saying he acted in self-defense. The lack of charges led to protests and rallies nationwide. Earlier this month a special prosecutor brought in by the governor brought a second degree murder charge against Zimmerman after a review of the police investigation.
Jackson said there are parallels between what happened to him and the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
“It was not that he was just beaten. But when those four police walked away free, it was the humiliating act of them being free in spite of what they had done and everybody created a rage riot,” said Jackson. “Well here we are to Rodney King to Trayvon. Here’s a kid going home, with Skittles and tea, profiled, followed against the advice of the dispatcher and left in the morgue for three days. And the killer walks free. It’s a humiliating act. It touched something deep to people all around the world.”
When asked if he thought the people would turn to violence if Zimmerman was acquitted, Jackson said he hoped for the best.
“I hope that does not happen. So far there has been discipline and restraint. I don’t know how people will act if the guy who profiled Trayvon and pursued him and killed him walks away free. I don’t know how they will react. I hope they have discipline,” said Jackson.
Jackson also discussed his relationship with President Barack Obama. In the past, he’s been caught on camera making unflattering comments about the president. Jackson said despite what we may have heard or seen, their relationship is good.
“We support him very much and I feel good about supporting him. One because of what he accomplished and two because of the alternative,” said Jackson.
When the topic of conversation turned to Haiti, Jackson said it’s time to really help out.
“You can’t build Haiti tent by tent,” said Jackson. “We have some moral obligation and really some, a matter of hemispheric security in order to be better neighbors and to be better caretakers to our brothers and sisters in Haiti. That’s why I’ve been there so many times across the years and I’ll keep going until something more happens.”
One of Jackson’s mission right now is to challenge the youth to register and vote in order to determine their life options. During the rally at Central High, Jackson told the students that voting will give them power and it’s that power that will help them determine their destination in life.