A jury of his peers may have found George Zimmerman innocent, but–many miles away from the Sanford, Florida case–New York City lawmakers aren’t done with the controversy
The city’s congressional delegation gathered this afternoon in Lower Manhattan to condemn the trial’s verdict, while at the same time, praising the Department of Justice’s willingness to investigate the killing of 17-year-old Trayon Martin.
“The families should know, while they’ve lost their dear son, they’ve gained a groundswell of Americans who really want us to do the right thing,” said Congressman Charlie Rangel, the senior member of the delegation. “There’s no place that a young black male can go without carrying the additional burden of being a black male.”
The press conference, held outside of a Manhattan federal courthouse, drew predominately minority legislators. Taking turns lamenting the verdict of the trial, which found Mr. Zimmerman not guilty on murder charges, the pols expressed hope that a federal investigation would find Mr. Zimmerman guilty of civil rights violations.
And, again and again, the lawmakers, including Representatives Jerry Nadler, Gregory Meeks, Nydia Velázquez, José Serrano and Hakeem Jeffries, claimed that Trayvon Martin was killed because he was black.
“Trayvon Martin did not have a gun,” Mr. Jeffries said. “All Trayvon Martin had was a package of Skittles and, as a result of him going to the store to get some Skittles, it set in motion a chain of events that resulted in him being shot dead in cold blood. That should not happen in America. And what’s why there needs to be some accountability.”
Mr. Jeffries cited Justice Department investigations in other racially-charged cases, including the murders of Rodney King and Anthony Baez as precedents for federal oversight.
Mr. Nadler, the ranking member on the Subcommittee of the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, was the lone white congressman to speak and echoed the need to federal action.
“It is clear that Trayvon Martin would be alive today if George Zimmerman were not deeply prejudiced and did not perceive a young black kid walking through the neighborhood as a threat,” Mr. Nadler said. “The civil rights laws were passed by the federal Congress. We have civil rights law precisely for the purpose of dealing with situations where the states have shown themselves incapable of meting out justice.”
As sweat rolled down the lawmakers’ foreheads–the temperature had soared to near-triple digits–the anger and indignation continued to build. In a rambling denunciation of Mr. Zimmerman and even the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactic, Ms. Velázquez said she feared for the safety of minority children everywhere.
“You know, July 13 will be remembered as a shameful day of our legal system,” Ms. Velázquez said. “Our nation needs to have a large conversation about the role of race, seriously.”