Protesters rallied in opposition to the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman and called for federal civil charges to be brought against the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Participants held signs and sang songs in memory of Martin, while expressing a need for social change.
“I came out, not because of the verdict, but because I know black men are targeted all the time,” said participant Eileen Wilkinson, “by police and by people like George Zimmerman. No one is guilty because of the color of their skin.”
The Springfield NAACP and other community groups helped distribute a petition that is gaining signatures across the country.
It calls for civil charges to be brought against Zimmerman, claiming that he violated Martin’s civil right to life.
On Friday, President Obama made another comment on the case, saying that 35 years ago, it could have been him who was in Trayvon’s place.
Many of Saturday’s protesters were pleased with Obama’s words on the situation, but some, like Nate Parrish, think he can do more. “I’d like to see the President use the bully pulpit to bring some light on the issue of black people being profiled in the United States of America,” he insisted. “It’s an issue that has been going on 50 or 60 years, and something should be done about it. And no innocent person should be killed for any reason.”
Springfield was just one of more than 100 cities calling for justice on Saturday.
Several thousand people endured rain in downtown Atlanta as they called for changes to the nation’s self-defense laws.
The Rev. Raphael Warnock asked several thousand attendees of Saturday’s rally what was so scary about a black man in a hood. Martin, who was black, wore a hoodie sweatshirt on the night he died. Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, told police Martin looked suspicious.
Martin’s parents took part as well, splitting their appearances between Miami and New York City, where his mother Sabrina Fulton was joined by Reverend Al Sharpton, and artists Jay-Z and Beyonce.
“He was a child,” Fulton said before a crowd in Manhattan, “who thought as a child, who acted as a child, who behaved as a child.”
In Miami, Travyon’s father repeated the same theme, saying, “I will continue to fight for Trayvon until the day I die. Not only will I be fighting for Trayvon, but I will be fighting for your child as well.”
Rally organizers said states should make it harder for people like Zimmerman to use self-defense arguments in court after killing someone. Many echoed the call for federal civil rights charges against the former neighborhood watch volunteer.
Zimmerman’s attorneys have said their client didn’t pursue Martin because of his race.