ROSELLE — Former Mayor Garrett Smith spoke at a rally with members of Trayvon Martin’s family and introduced U.S. Rep. Donald Payne at the program on Saturday, which began at the Harlem headquarters of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
“We cannot allow the clock to be turned back on our fight for civil rights,” said Smith, the president of the National Action Network’s Linden/Roselle chapter. “Whether it is the right to walk to the store and purchase goods and return home safely or the right to vote without being harassed or intimidated, we deserve to have these rights protected.”
Entertainers Beyonce and Jay-Z also joined Sybrina Fulton and Rev. Al Sharpton at the New York event, which continued at One Police Plaza, marking the one week anniversary of a Florida jury finding George Zimmerman not guilty in the teenager’s death.
Sharpton’s National Action Network also organized “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and vigils outside federal buildings and other landmarks in 100 cities across the nation.
Martin was fatally shot at age 17 on Feb. 26, 2012 as he walked home from a candy store but the initial failure of police to make an arrest and Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal have led many to believe that race played a critical role in the murder.
On Friday, President Obama strode into the White House briefing room and gave reporters a surprise off-the-cuff analysis of why the Zimmerman verdict outraged the African-American community.
“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama said. “In the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here.
“I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” Obama said.
Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, and Obama urged state legislatures to review controversial Stand Your Ground laws in the wake of the Zimmerman trial.
“If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?” Obama asked. “And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.”
“As a mom of a 16-year-old, I can’t help but think about his mom,” said talk show host Kelly Ripa. “You know, my son wears a hoodie. He likes Skittles. You know, I just keep going back to that place, I think like so many parents do, and my son would have been scared to death.”
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