Thousands have rallied across in cities across the United States to protest the shooting death last month of a 17-year-old Florida teenager, in a case that has made headlines around the world.
Trayvon Martin was killed nearly a month ago in a suburb of Orlando, Florida, by George Zimmerman, 28, who was volunteering as a neighbourhood watch security enforcer.
Moments before the shooting, Zimmerman had called police to report a suspicious person in the neighbourhood.
After a confrontation, he shot and killed Martin who was walking back from a convenience store to a house in the Sanford neighbourhood where the teen father’s fiancee lived.
Dressed in “hoodie” sweatshirts like the one Martin was wearing when he was shot, and chanting “no justice, no peace”, protesters in cities including Washington DC, Chicago, Tampa and Nashville demanded the arrest of Zimmerman, as part of a case that many feel demonstrates racism embedded in US law and society.
In Washington DC, as many as 2,000 people came to the steps of the mayor’s office for a rally hastily organised over Twitter and Facebook.
“Even with all the positive images you might see with Obama being president and a lot of steps we’ve made, we’re not completely there yet,” said Bless Davis, standing in a light rain at Saturday’s Washington rally with his son Logan, 3 on his shoulders.
“You can still be murdered for being black in this country.”
Martin was African-American, and Zimmerman is white and reportedly of Latino descent who reportedly used a racial epithet in a recorded call to police.
Sanford police said an initial investigation did not find enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman, who claimed to have acted in self-defence.
A grand jury will decide April 10 whether to charge Zimmerman with murder.
Saturday’s rallies continued several days of protests that started with a “million-hoodie march” in New York and Miami on 21 March.
As many as 8,000 people attended a rally in Sanford the next day, including civil rights activists from around the country.
On Friday, thousands of students in 31 Florida schools walked out of classes in protest, and the Miami Heat basketball team posed for a photo with hoodies pulled over their heads.
President Barack Obama told reporters on Friday, “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
Despite chants of “no justice, no peace”, public anger about the case remains high but demonstrations have thus far been non-violent.
A 68-year-old Florida man was arrested for threatening to kill Sanford police chief Bill Lee Jr, who stepped down on Thursday.
Independent groups chime in
The Associated Press reported earlier in the week that members of The New Black Liberation Institute and Militia, a self-described black militia group, were planning next week to take Zimmerman to federal authorities since local police haven’t acted, said Najee Muhammad, a leader of the militia group.
“We’ll find him. We’ve got his mug shot and everything,” Muhammad said.
Photos on the group’s website show men dressed in fatigues and berets.
At a rally in Sanford on Saturday, the New Black Panther Party – a Black Nationalist political group, offered a 10,000 dollar bounty for Zimmerman’s “capture,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” the group’s leader, Mikhail Muhammed, told the Florida newspaper. “We don’t hate anyone, we hate injustice.”
It is unclear whether the two groups are associated with each other.