INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Young black men such as Trayvon Martin face racial profiling on a daily basis and society must change to make their lives safer, people at a rally in Indianapolis said Saturday, a week after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in shooting death of the Florida teen.
About 200 people gathered at the federal courthouse in downtown Indianapolis for a “Justice for Trayvon” rally, one of dozens of noontime events nationwide organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
The crowd cheered as Pastor Jeffrey Johnson compared Zimmerman’s acquittal on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter to the 1992 acquittal of four white officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.
“The verdict freed George Zimmerman, but it condemned America more,” said Johnson, pastor of the Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis. Johnson is also on the board of directors of the National Action Network.
The rallies were originally arranged to press for civil rights charges against Zimmerman, but Johnson said before the rally its purpose changed after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the government would investigate whether Zimmerman can be charged under federal law.
Kimberly Stowers, 50, an African-American state employee and mother of six, said her five sons are frequently pulled over by police on “ridiculous” pretenses when they drive in neighborhoods that are mostly white.
“We tell them if they’re stopped to keep your hands on the steering wheel. Yes sir, no sir,” she said.
Martin was shot while walking home on a rainy night in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic, said he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense, but Martin’s family claims he was the victim of racial profiling.