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 can and will say. Anyone tries to break in my house rather white or black they will be shot dead as soon as i see that they are trying to get in my house or try to harm my family.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • sharon

      That's all well and good, but what does breaking and entry have to do with this case? The kid was walking down the street talking on the phone. The murderer stalked him and killed him without provacation.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jason scott

    I do agree. Justice does need to be done but its times like this black people blow it out of porportion. If hey would just worry about themselves and let the law take it in time justice will prevail

    March 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      I'd like to see black people just once stand up and take up a cause for a poor white or hispanic or asian child when some injustice has been done..
      Prove there is equality in their minds..They want it. When do they ever waste their time fighting for equality when some other victimized kid is being shoved under the carpet?

      March 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason scott

      they dont. They just look at it as them being black and that a crime has been committed against a black person. 95% of black people are prejuidice

      March 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. s

    This case is not just racial profiling. This is a case of racial discrimination by the local police – not investigating the tragic shooting of this poor kid thoroughly and for the governor to only now after nearly a month appoint an investigative team.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. scranton

    I wonder if any high school students walked out when OJ was found innocent of killing his wife and Goldman?

    March 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      @scraton...I doubt these kids walked for OJ since they were not born yet! Idiot!

      March 23, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • j.e burton

      t least o j went to court. that verdict was a rodney king back lash. if it wasn't for the rodney king verdict oj would have been found guilty. you don't understand what's going on around .

      March 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Richard Stratton

    Zimmerman was told by the police NOT to pursue this kid. He did so anyway. Zimmerman is the attacker here. He is not an officer of the law, so the kid was under no obligation to stop running. If there was a 'scuffle" then this boy was simply defending himself against a crazy citizen. No weapons on the boy! Did Zimmerman think his life was in danger? From what? Man pelted to death by skittles!!!!

    March 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rae Ann Pointer

    The irony is that these same protesters are the same ones that hold up signs saying "Free Mumia". This is all about race, not justice.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rae Ann Pointer

    The police report indicated that Martin was six feet tall and 160 pounds. Since he played football that would be 160 pounds of muscle. Zimmerman is listed at Five feet nine inches. The police report does not give a weight for him but others have reported him as 100 lbs over Martin, probably all fat from the picture.

    The police also reports that the attending officer noticed blood on the back of Zimmerman's head on and his nose. The report also indicated that Zimmerman indicated he had screamed for help but that nobody came.

    From this report, it would be that Zimmerman was afraid for his life and fired in self defense.

    Following someone is not a crime. Beating someone's head in the cement is. Zimmerman will stay a free man as he should. The system worked.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes

      Have you heard the 911 tapes? The person
      Screaming, crying, begging and pleading
      was on the bottom... the one on top wore
      a white shirt, according to witnesses.

      Trayvon was found dead on his back from
      a point-blank shot to the chest.

      It's really NOT a racial thing, he could have
      been anyone's son.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peace

      At what point should Trayvon have felt threatened by Mr. Zimmerman? At what point should he have attempted to defend himself against some strange man pursuing him? Have you ever known anyone who lied, said one thing but the truth was something else? Is it possible in this situation?

      March 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jason scott

    Anything that involves a black person The black people make a racial epidemic. To them its bout what a white person did to a black person. Maybe we should form a waacp. They have a naacp

    March 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      But they also have Miss Black USA. Which im sure no white girls are in. Black Entertainment TV (BET), naacp- just try to form naawp. Black History Month??? Why isn't it just History month? Didn't any other people Build America? Native American, Chinese, European, Hispanic? Im sure we could fill the whole year up with History. Its way way too far now.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peace

      Jason could it be deeper than that? Have you ever sat and had a real conversation with someone of darker skin and allowed them to share with you what they have been subjected to in this society because of the color of their skin? It is not limited to black people, try talking to another ethnic group with darker skin they to can shed light for you. Unless you have walked in the shoes or care about someone who has you may never understand until you open yourself to fully hearing the other point of view without judgement.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dott

      That should have been done long ago. What is wrong with white people that we don't stand up and act like this when a black kills a white person? Why is that? Are we just stupid or what? We sit by and allow the law enforcement to do their job. They cry stereotype but when more crimes are commited by young black men what is the law enforcement suppose to do?

      March 25, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. JoJo

    Chief Billy-Lee for President!

    March 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jerry Dunn

    If it had been the other way a black man shot a white teenager would this have been such a big deal, would white people be out demonstrating to get justice would the President even get involved I doubt it. I say let the judicial system work and if it don't it wouldn't be the first time black or white. I wonder sometimes who are really the racist the black or the white it works both ways you know. If this man is hispantic and e legal maybe the President should represent him he seems to be a big supporter of such.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jason scott

    Pee-wee herman for president!!!!! And i approve this message

    March 23, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dana

    Well lets not allow mob mentality, everyone of those students that walked out of class will be suspended for one week and if they disrupt the school again this way then expel them. Do they still have continuation schools for the incorrigible?

    March 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. High Hopes

    Tully et al:

    Personally, I'm offended by your questions.
    But, ask yourself this: How does a race break
    through a barrier of oppression that has been
    handed down generation to generation?

    Your answer may be education, in fact that
    would be a good place to start. But, it's been
    less than 50 years that we had that debate,
    and, to this day there is still a vast disparity
    of education standards and achievement
    between suburban and inner-city schools.

    So next time you wonder why there isn't much
    success in black families, look beyond the
    generations of poverty and look at the rest. To
    be systematic exclusion is reflected in every
    variable from household income, to home
    Ownership, to percentages graduating from
    college, to unemployment rates.

    Now, what do you propose to do?

    March 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      @High Hopes

      Its gonna take more than hopes. How many shootings happen every day in the Asian community?

      March 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes

      Depends on what neighborhood you're talking about.
      They have their gangs and they're some bad José's if
      you get my drift. They run the heroine market in
      San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Houston
      among other places. Why? Your point?

      Don't tell me you hate them, too?

      March 23, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. High Hopes

    As for the rest...

    You are an embarrassment to our race.

    Blonde haired, blue eyed, with a brain;
    and I use it!


    March 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sonya

      High Hopes thank you for your sensability in this matter and recognizing the sheer ignorance of some people in your culture. It is people like you that will not allow me to become hateful towards the White race because you truly get the message of judging people by the content of their character and not the skin color. I salaute you my Sister of the Human Race and pray that you continue to be brave in speaking of right and wrong. From a Dark Skinned Brown eyed Proud African American female.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jason scott

    99% of most blacks are racists. They can say they arent but show them the confederate flag or fly it in the city over their town n see how fast they complain about the flag. If they could they would fly their africa flag but never would happen in america. The confederate flag can show you who is racists or not. I fly one everyday at my hoise and on my truck n fly it proudly. Maybe black people should really look into the meaning of the confederate flag

    March 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • jhlubeck

      Please remove these ignorant and absurd comments.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Right-O

      THE CONFEDERATE FLAG IS RACIST! Of course African-Americans would be UPSET. Maybe you need to take American History 101. And for all you fellow whites out there who just don't seem to "get" it, YOU need to take African-American history. Yes. You do. I am white and I truly believe that was the most valuable and enriching class I took in college. I felt like I was hearing THE TRUTH about this country, for once. Thank you, UCLA.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes


      Thank you for the compliment.

      Sisters Forever,


      March 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes


      Thanks for the compliment.

      Sisters Forever,


      March 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
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