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. HJ

    Where does this "Association" ( a homeowner association, licensed as such with the State?) get off hiring a non-police officer to guard the property? Am I missing something here? Please have someone review the laws and by-laws and see what went wrong?

    March 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      It call community watch, I belong to one in my community. Yes I have a permit to carry a firearm. However, community watch is call the police not be the police. This guy is in the wrong, however, my state laws (for carrying conceal) my life or someone esle life must be in danger, I don't believe this was the case here. Only a police investigation will solve that. I am just wondering why when a Black man shot a White man in front of his daughter, claiming the same defense in FL doesn't get the same Media attention?

      March 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • seebofubar

      He was not hired, he is a community watch VOLUNTEER, learn to read.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      It's called law enforcement being done on the cheap. People go to the quicky police academy and then get to run around with a toy badge thinking they are Columbo or on the set of NYPD blue. There's a lot of this VOLUNTEER stuff going on in this country in jobs that used to be paind, well trained, well informed and run with good framework and structure. For monetary reasons we continue to lower the bar for said jobs and say " really they don't need to be that well trained and we can make it a volunteer thing " and save money. Volunterring is fine. Volunteer to mentor a troubled teen, volunteer to be company for a lonely senior, but volunteering taking the place of jobs that must have good solid framework is trouble.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tony

    High school students will walk out of class if given the chance every time. Since they can't vote, perhaps they were allowed to express their feelings by school officials. Everybody knows something went wrong in Florida. Even kids know it! Better to peacefully demonstrate, than behave like adult vigilantes!

    March 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tamara

    Hispanics can b racist!!! Darker skinned (afro) latinoes are constantly being discriminated against by "white" hipsanics because of their skin color!!! So its not impossible for a 1/2 hispanic man to not like black people!!!

    March 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • RickMilw

      Tamara, you're so right. People in America think that all Hispanics are dark skinned. I'm originally from Puerto Rico and noticed how black and darker skinned Puerto Ricans were discriminated against by white or light skinned Puerto Ricans. Racism is not an issue just in the USA. It's everywhere. Will it go away? Doubtful. But how we handle it and learn to coexist with one another is the key.

      March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mommaofthree

    I think that alot of people need to know that it doesnt matter what race a child is and yes he was a baby to his mother. That baby is gone so stop hating on this thread its not about you or the president mourn for the child that was lost 4 the family and the friends that lost that baby to a senceless act of violence!

    March 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeanine

    Im glad that the president said what he said. I can't understand why this guy ( George Zimmerman) has not been arrested he clearly has issues and my heart goes out to Trayvon Martins family.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rick

    walking out of school in protest! how about giving up hoodies as a protest? any excuse to miss school.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ora

    another brother bites the dust. i go with obama you dont go round killing people children , if that had bin a any other race they would have locked him up. they dont give a dam about that kid cuz he is black. if the kid was white they would had locked him up.if it was a white boy he still should still be arested, thats a life he took. and fore all of yall who dont arest him , how would u feel if it was your kid? how can yall sleep?

    March 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. si

    GUNS KILL!!!!


    March 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris


      March 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • oldvet10

      I own several guns and have observed them for several years, I haven't had one yet jump out of the safe and shoot someone. It's normally the idiot behind them that causes the problem.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO © I'm not Clint Eastwood but

      True oldvert, but take the gun out of this situation, and the kid is still alive. Your logic is similar to saying "I've got plenty of oily rags in my basement, but if I'm careful not to introduce an ignition source, they won't catch fire." Certainly true, but you can't guarantee the situation with the oily rags outside of your own basement. The oily rags have no purpose, just as handguns have no purpose in an urban society, especially among a population that has no training in safe use. Just get rid of the bloody things.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeanine

    Mommaofthree I agree 100% with you.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. zelda

    Dear Tamara

    Thank you for the clarification, Obama is an idiot. I wasn't going to say that so I was happy to see you did.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quit The Hate

      How Classy! Do you teach your children to call people names when you disagree with them or is your childishness just regulated to the President? I'm betting there's lots of people you hate.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. margo johnson

    Need massive civil disobeditence in Sanford Florida that shuts down the town in order to get this neanderthal arrested. The students have the right idea.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FubarObama

    Obama should focus on other priorities. There were 40 people shot last weekend in his hometown Chicago. 10 were killed. I did not hear a peep from our community organizer about those shootings. and because there is a hoodie March he jumps in with both feet with a lynchmob mentality. Please,I believe the justice system will get it right without any influence from the Almighty Obama.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sigh

      Sigh. Someone asked him about it during a press conference about something else, and he answered. Shut up. Bash Obama somewhere else. It has no place here.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. chat

    thank you obama, racism is still in america, they want black americans to forgive, but we will never forget, keep up the good work obama

    March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • zelda

      if you can't forget...well, maybe it's time to try living somewhere els.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ora

    do the rite thing zimmerman, it not gonna b aday , the rest of your life that you will rest. your are not the law, you cant take the law in to your hand. who do u think u are? i hope u root in hell. do the rite thing and turn your self in. killer.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO © I'm not Beelzebub but

      ROOT IN HELL ? Hahahahahahah.........

      March 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Glaziers930

    Hear is some news you don;t hear in the media.There is a witness that saw Trayvon on top of Zimmerman beating him.The witness said Zimmerman was on the bottom yelling for help.Why is the media not reporting this?Source .There is a rush to judgement on this subject zimmerman is being portrayed in a very bad light,and we look at a photo of trayvon when he was 12 years old.Anything bad in Zimmermans past is draged out a lot of it is speculation.Trayvon's past we know nothing about.It is unfair the way he is being tried in the court of public opinion.There should be equal billing in the media so both sides can be heard.Above all public opinion should not trump the police investagation.Wait until all the facts are in.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • zelda

      @ Glaziers930, please do confuse people with any facts. It make them look stupid!

      March 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sigh

      Um, the witness said that the man wearing the white t-shirt was on top of the boy. Turn off fox and turn up your hearing aid. A gun against a bag of skittles? Puhleeze. Just say you're glad it turned out this way and be done with it.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      You are high the man wearing a red sweater after the shot the man wearing the red sweater was dead.Thats Trayvon stupid.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      Hey sigh by your responce you didn't view the statement you took the very last part of the statement that suits your speculation.So you must have taken your point off somebody elses comment.You are not fooling anyone.All anyone has to do is go to the artical theirself.One thing for sure your opinion will have zero weight in a court of law.The witness's will.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
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