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.
In Atlanta, speakers noted that the rally took place in the shadows of federal buildings named for two figures who had vastly differing views on civil rights and racial equality: Richard B. Russell was a Georgia governor and U.S. senator elected in the Jim Crow South; the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a son of Atlanta, is the face of the modern civil rights movement.
”What’s so frightening about a black man in a hood?” said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who now occupies the pulpit at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
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.