By GREG BLUESTEIN (Associated Press)
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin “hoodie” church services, calls for lawmakers to strengthen gun laws and gatherings to remember the teen.
Activists in Atlanta held rallies to honor the 17-year-old, who was killed in February by a Florida neighborhood watch captain in the central Florida town of Sanford, while pressuring authorities to make an arrest in the shooting.
At Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, hundreds of worshippers wore hoodies like the hooded sweatshirt that Martin was wearing when he was shot. The Rev. Raphael Warnock compared the teenager’s death to other tragedies that helped define the civil rights movement.
“They said his name was Trayvon Martin. But he looked like Emmett Till,” said Warnock, referring to the 14-year-old Chicago boy who was bludgeoned and shot to death during a 1955 visit to Mississippi for supposedly whistling at a White woman.
“At least with Emmett Till someone was arrested. And that was in 1955,” he said. “You mean in 2012 we have no arrests? Many of us have been arrested for far less than that.”
The men charged with killing Till were acquitted by an all-White jury, though they later confessed to the crime in a Look magazine article.
Martin was shot on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer who said he was acting in self-defense. Martin was returning to his father’s fiancée’s house from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles candy and a can of iced tea when the confrontation took place. He was not armed.
The shooting has ignited racial tensions and has raised questions over whether police properly handled the investigation. Martin was Black, and Zimmerman’s father is White and his mother is Hispanic.
It’s also stoked debate about “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida, Georgia and 19 other states that give people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight. The law helps explain why Zimmerman wasn’t arrested in Martin’s death.
At a rally Monday, March 26, in front of the Georgia statehouse, activists urged lawmakers to roll back Georgia’s version of the self-defense law. Also Clark Atlanta students rallied Wed., March 28.
Robert Patillo, a civil rights attorney who is running for a state House seat, said the law “opens the floodgates for the number of people who can be met with deadly force, whether it was warranted or not.”
Others say Martin’s death is a stark reminder that the struggle for civil rights is far from over.
“Here we have a Black president but Trayvon Martin can’t walk without suspicion through his gated community,” said Warnock, who was wearing a maroon hoodie during the service. “Here we are, again, staring bigotry in the face. Staring racism in the face.”
Many at Ebenezer, where Martin Luther King Jr. and his father once preached, saw strains of the civil rights movement in the teen’s death. Ushers, tourists and even choir members wore hoodies in Trayvon Martin’s honor, and some brought other props as well.
Ingrid Lester, 64, pinned a Skittles wrapper to her lapel to honor the slain Florida teen.
“It just didn’t feel right. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and some of them wear hoodies. I always worry for them, but now I’m really worried for them.”