Latino civil rights group National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has joined the NAACP, National Action Network, National Urban League and other advocacy organizations in asking to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss possible next steps by the federal government just two days after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of all charges in the April 2012 shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin.
“While we respect the legal process and the jury’s decision, we are deeply disappointed and saddened by this verdict,” stated Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “However, we believe that it is still possible to achieve some measure of justice for Trayvon Martin and his family, so we are joining with our brothers and sisters in the black community in calling on the Department of Justice to weigh in more forcefully on the matter,” Murguia added. “We also believe it is critical to see this case as a teachable moment; we must continue to educate our fellow Americans on what racial profiling really is and the toll it takes on all communities of color in this country.”
The NAACP launched a petition on Saturday appealing the U.S. Department of Justice to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. The Justice Department has responded, saying that a review of the case and possible hate crime charges is underway.
“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the department’s policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial,” the Justice Department said in a statement Sunday.
On Saturday evening, a jury of six women found Zimmerman – who is white and of Hispanic descent – innocent of all charges including second-degree murder and manslaughter following a trial which started June 10th. Zimmerman, 29, said he was acting in self-defense when he shot Martin, who was 17 at the time, following an altercation in the gated community of Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012. Zimmerman followed Martin after seeing him walking in the neighborhood. Zimmerman’s defense team, lead by attorney Mark O’Mara, said Zimmerman’s facial injuries were evidence that he acted in self-defense.
NCLR support of a formal suit on civil rights violation charges follows organized protests by Martin supporters objecting to the trial verdict in cities like New York and Los Angeles.
On Monday, protestors marched along Los Angeles’ Interstate 10, blocking traffic along the freeway. At least one arrest was made, reported NBC Los Angeles, after bottles and rocks were thrown at local police officers. And in New York City, police made at least ten arrests on disorderly conduct charges when thousands gathered in a demonstration on Sunday that interrupted traffic in popular tourist destination Times Square, reported NBC affiliate WNBC.
And on social media, the topic of Saturday’s verdict went viral, as supporters of both Martin and Zimmerman took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their reaction.
“Sad, angry, WTF? Rest in peace kiddo. Moms hold your babies tight. Any idiot can just kill them for no reason,” tweeted Martin supporter and founder of Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM) founder Ana Roca-Castro. Popular salsa musician Willie Colón also echoed the opinion of many protestors, tweeting, “Zimmerman literally got away with murder.”
Others expressed their support of Zimmerman, like Gina Bracamonte who tweeted, “It’s pretty sick how the Latino community abandoned GZ because of his last name. He’s clearly Latino.”
On the NBC Latino Facebook page, one Zimmerman supporter wrote simply, “Justice was served.”
George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.