TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Governor Rick Scott declared Sunday a statewide “Day of Prayer for Unity” in the death of Trayvon Martin.
The proclamation said, in part, “the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is a tragedy; and the Martin family, the family of George Zimmerman, and all those affected by Trayvon’s death remain in our thoughts and prayers.” It also said “emotions are running high as we continue to grieve the loss of Trayvon and the toll that the tragic events surrounding his death have taken on the community of Sanford, Florida, and other communities across our state.”
Scott has rejected calls to repeal Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Martin’s death. He has also refused to meet with a group of students staging a sit-in in his office who are calling for a special session to address the self defense law.
“People who tell us to lobby the legislature to convene a special session instead of Rick Scott must have missed out on legislative session this year.” Ciara Taylor, a member of the Dream Defenders, a group leading the protest, posted Thursday night on Facebook.
On Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and vigils outside federal buildings in at least 101 cities.
“No justice! No peace!” participants chanted. Some sang hymns, prayed and held hands. Many held signs — in Los Angeles, one read, “This is Amerikkka: From Dred Scott to Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect.”
Demonstrators in New York are planning a follow-up march on Sunday.
At a rally in Miami on Saturday, Tracy Martin spoke about his son.
“This could be any one of our children,” he said. “Our mission now is to make sure that this doesn’t happen to your child.”
He recalled a promise he made to his son as he lay in his casket. “I will continue to fight for Trayvon until the day I die,” he said.
Shantescia Hill held a sign in Miami that read: “Every person deserves a safe walk home.” The 31-year-old mother, who is black, said, “I’m here because our children can’t even walk on the streets without fearing for their lives.”
In New York, hundreds of people — including Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce — gathered in the heat.
Fulton told the crowd she was determined to fight for changes needed to ensure that black youths are no longer viewed with suspicion because of their skin color.
“I promise you I’m going to work for your children as well,” she told the crowd.
Earlier Saturday, at Sharpton’s headquarters in Harlem, she implored people to understand that the tragedy involved more than Martin alone. “Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours,” she said.
In addition to pushing the Justice Department to investigate civil rights charges against Zimmerman, Sharpton told supporters In New York that he wants to see a rollback of stand-your-ground self-defense laws.
“We are trying to change laws so that this never, ever happens again,” Sharpton said.
Such laws are on the books in more than 20 states, and they go beyond many older, traditional self-defense statutes. In general, stand-your-ground laws eliminate a person’s duty to retreat, if possible, in the face of a serious physical threat.
The case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defense, guns, and race relations. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself when he shot Martin, identifies himself as Hispanic. Martin was black.
Zimmerman didn’t invoke stand-your-ground, relying instead on a traditional self-defense argument, but the judge included a provision of the law in the jurors’ instructions, allowing them to consider it as a legitimate defense.
Neither was race discussed in front of the jury. But the two topics have dominated public discourse about the case, and came up throughout Saturday’s rallies.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that his department would investigate whether Zimmerman could be charged under federal civil rights laws. Such a case would require evidence that Zimmerman harbored racial animosity against Martin.
Most legal experts say that would be a difficult charge to prove. Zimmerman’s lawyers have said their client wasn’t driven by race, but by a desire to protect his neighborhood.
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