March 23rd, 2012
01:50 PM ET

Students walk out of school to protest Trayvon Martin's death

President Barack Obama weighed in on a growing controversy over the February shooting death of an unarmed black Florida teenager Friday, as students in several South Florida high schools walked out of class to protest the killing and the investigation.

Obama called the February killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, a "tragedy."

Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida, by a neighborhood watch volunteer while walking home from a convenience store on February 26, according to police.

George Zimmerman, who police said was the man who killed Martin, claimed he did so in self-defense. Zimmerman, whose family says he is Hispanic, has not been arrested or charged in the killing of the teenager, sparking a national debate over Florida's "stand your ground" deadly force law amid concerns about racial profiling. A grand jury will convene April 10 to look into the case.

Here is a roundup of Friday's developments in the controversy:

[Updated at 5:34 p.m. ET] Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, said in a statement that it was "humbling that President Obama took time from his busy scheduled to talk about Trayvon."

"The president's personal comments touch us deeply and made us wonder: If his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious too?"

Martin was wearing a hoodie, or hooded sweatshirt, the day he died.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said no particular development prompted Obama to speak out. He said the president had been monitoring the situation and was prepared to answer a question if he received one.

[Updated at 5:11 p.m. ET] On the day President Obama talked publicly about the case, GOP presidential candidates also spoke up on Friday.

"There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity," Mitt Romney said.

GOP rival Newt Gingrich said that while he believes in the right to self-defense, it appeared Zimmerman was "overreaching."

"The question here is: Was this guy attacked or was he the attacker? And that is what the grand jury will lead to. I mean if they decide he was the attacker, I suspect they'll indict him," Gingrich said.

And Rick Santorum told reporters on Friday that Zimmerman's actions looked starkly different from those protected by "stand your ground" laws.

"It's horrible case. I mean it's chilling to hear what happened. And of course the fact that law enforcement didn't immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made in this process," Santorum said.

[Updated at 3:39 p.m. ET] The state prosecutor investigating Martin's death said her team is traveling to Sanford with a "blank slate."

State Attorney Angela B. Corey's team was scheduled to arrive Friday and begin seeking facts in the case. She replaces State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, whose district includes Sanford. Wolfinger requested that someone else be assigned, saying in a letter to the Florida governor: "This request is being made in light of the public good with the intent of toning down the rhetoric and preserving the integrity of this investigation."

Corey said Friday that she was not sure if a grand jury scheduled to begin meeting April 10 would be needed. She said her office has the power to charge Zimmerman, clear him or send the case to the grand jury.

[Updated at 1:50 p.m. ET] Officials with Miami-Dade County Public Schools have issued a statement urging students to respect the wishes of Martin's mother, who they say called them yesterday to "voice her disapproval of student walkouts and to encourage students to instead sign petitions, attend organized rallies and pray."

“While we respect the expression of emotion by our students, we ask that they remain focused on their education,” district school Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said. “Our most important mission is to provide a safe learning environment for students, and so we are asking them to respect the wishes of Trayvon’s mother by celebrating his memory not through walkouts, but through reflection and civic participation.”

Students in South Florida walked out of a number of high schools Thursday and Friday to protest Martin's death.

[Updated at 12:54 p.m. ET] Students from at least 10 South Florida high schools have staged walkouts to protest Martin's death, CNN affiliate WSVN reported.

Video from a WSVN helicopter showed students gathered on the Southridge Senior High School football field near Miami, standing in a formation that, when viewed from above, formed the letters "T" and "M" - Trayvon Martin's initials.

At Miami Edison High School on Friday morning, more than 900 students gathered at the school's track to demonstrate for an hour, CNN affiliate WPLG reported.

High school students aren't the only ones planning protests. In Dallas, people at Paul Quinn College planned to protest Martin's death Friday, CNN affiliate KTVT reported.

On Monday, people in Sanford, the Florida city of 50,000 where the shooting happened, plan to march to the site of a city commissioners' meeting, said Valerie Houston, pastor of Allen Baptist Church.

Also on Monday, students and civil rights leaders in Atlanta plan to march to the state Capitol to protest a Georgia state law similar to Florida's "stand your ground" statute, which doesn't require people to retreat from potential danger in public places and instead allows them to meet "force with force" if they believe there is danger of serious harm to themselves or someone else.

[Updated at 10:35 a.m. ET] Obama called the February killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin a "tragedy" on Friday.

"I can only imagine what these parents are going through. When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids," Obama said to reporters Friday morning. "I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this."

Obama said Martin's death particularly resonated with him as an African-American parent.

"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said in brief remarks outside the White House.

Obama's comments came during a news conference to announce that he would nominate Dartmouth College's president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, to be the next president of the World Bank.

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Filed under: Florida • Trayvon Martin
soundoff (461 Responses)
  1. Jason scott

    i agree totally!!!! You are what you make yourself. Most black kids just wana be in gangs and act like they are tough when they are COWARDS!! And they act like its a white persons fault because they dont want to get a real job. They would rather depend on our government for food stamps welfare unemployment pay while they sit at home shooting dice selling drugs n killing their own over something stupid

    March 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • EJ

      Your type of thinking is likely what lead to this kid being murdered.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tim

    The reason there is still allot of hatred with the black community is because they keep fueling it. Anytime anything they don't like happens, they cry out rascism. They show more racism towards other races than any race shows towards them. It's truly sad that no one really cares about what really happened. They formed their opinions based on incomplete stories and parents crying that their kid never did any wrong even though he was suspended from school. I'm not saying he deserved it. I'm just saying I highly doubt he was completely innocent in the confrontation. But people don't care about that. It's just like the OJ Simpson case. Everyone knew he was guilty including the black community. The evidence was overwhelming. But I heard many black people say that they thought he was guilty but didn't care. They were going to riot if he received a guilty verdict.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Deb

    It's because of small minded people like you that hatred for blacks is alive and well. You see only the negatives in another culture, and ignore the other side even if it's right in front of your face. But when you see the same bad element in your own race, you ignore it and see only the good. People like you Tully, have never befriended a black person, but think you have because you've talked to one at work.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. h

    The black man who shot the white man was arrested and charged. The police did not investigate this case although it is clear that theis man was the agressor. They just let him walk away.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dott

      If you are referring to the case that happened in Valrico FL the veteran that was killed is still dead and his daughter is without a father and the black man is free and was never arrested. Get your facts straight. The white man did not have a weapon.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. nynnc

    Tully ! That may be the case in your neighborhood ! but not all ppl on the system are Black ! I grew up in the ghetto and trust me, it was no picnic, but ppl change and as you have changed and made a better life for yourself so have ppl of all races, this younger generation is nothing like my generation and it shows ! race has nothing to do with Morals and Honesty ! you either have it or you don't !!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason scott

    Why cant we just all get along!!!!???? Wwwwwhhhhhhyyyyy. Wwwwhhhhhyyyy

    March 23, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • common sense

      As long as we all live under the sun we all cant get along, why? Cos that is the way it is...

      March 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Zayne

    I think everyone has a pretty good idea of what really happened. No one just wants to say it because they are too busy jumping on the racism bandwagon. It wasn't about race!!!! Zimmerman has black friends and family and even most of the neighborhood interviewed had nothing but good things to say about him. Zimmerman saw a legitimate threat to the gated community (many people there had been robbed the day before by young black males) and decided to confront the threat. Instead of identifying himself like an innocent person would, Trayvon ran like a guilty person would. Reacting on this Zimmerman, chased him down and confronted him. Trayvon, reacting in anger, attacks Zimmerman. Zimmerman, in self defense, shoots Trayvon. It was a horrible tragedy and BOTH men were at fault!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Deb

    Zimmerman looks to be twice the size of Martin. There's nothing worse than wannabe cops, they'd never pass the psych evaluation.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jason scott

    Thats the point GRUBER. The afghan killings didnt involve a black from a white man shooting them so yall not paying attention to that. You must be black gruber. Since this involves a black young man the black community wants to be mad. Its all about killing. How is the afghan killings different. Because it didnt involve a black?

    March 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jason scott

    I live in a town that every single day .....every day.... At least 2 black people are shot and killed by a black man every day. There has not been one day since jan.1st that a day has gone bu that a black didnt shoot another black. I see it every evening on my news. You are the person you make yourself to be. If you are out working to make yourself better you will become someone. If your out to be a thug youll eventually die doing something stupid

    March 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Travis

    This truly was a great tragedy but I wish people would use their intelligence and common sense and stop blindly following the masses. Everyone is talking like Zimmerman just saw a black kid walking around in his neighborhood and went up and shot him. That is not even close to what happened. The facts that have come out about the case clearly show 2 things. Trayvon had been shot dead by Zimmerman and Zimmerman had been attacked by Trayvon. Eveyone seems to want to ignore the last fact because their simple minds can only go with the flow.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jason scott

    And the black people who shoot the other black people are never found. They are just unsolved cases

    March 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Caleb

    You know who's fault it really is? It's the black guys who were robbing the neighborhood. If they wouldn't have robbed people (like the low-lifes they trully are), then Zimmerman wouldn't have been on high alert and probably would have never messed with Trayvon that night. They did though and because of it, an innocent person was killed. I think the black community needs to stop trying to condemn Zimmerman and start condemning all of the blacks committing crimes so they can end the racial profiling. Until blacks stop committing the majority of crimes in this country, racial profiling is just!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dott

    HUH ? There is just as much hatred for whites from the black race. Not long ago a black man shot a white veteran while the vets daughter watched. He was never arrested even though the veteran was not armed. Being white does not give you any more priviledges than blacks but we act more civilized in these types of situations. No one had to resign and no one came down from the other states to protest. We sat idle while the law enforcements worked the facts. The man is still at home and still no arrest. SO you need to re-think your statements. That happened in Valrico Florida about 2 years ago.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ry

    I can't believe some of these conversations. Racism definitely exists in America. It is clear. Many of you really need to look in the mirror. What would you do if a person who is 30 or more pounds more than you and is following you in the dark? Humm... It doesn't take a genius to answer this question but I've been wrong before. Also, some of you really need to get your facts straight before making comments because it only makes you look less educated. As you can see it is not just blacks that see this event as a clear case of racial profiling. Many races see the injustice of this situation.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
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