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. Name*ej

    Who cares

    March 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • ladydi

      who cares? Alot of people do – people with feelings and compassion...........obviously you dont have these qualities. Very sad. I pray you never have to walk in his parent's shoes.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      Why are you here...we won't care if you GO AWAY!

      March 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Michelle

    It should be a no-brainer here. When he(Zimmerman) called the police, according to the account of the phone call, he was specifically told by the dispatch officer that, "we don't need you to do that'. Since he disregarded the mandate by the dispatch officer, it would seem that the 'stand your ground' defense shouldn't be able to apply, as Zimmerman, by his own choice, chose to follow the young man. Therefore, to me, that' just like commiting a murder. Now, if the young man had been up in Zimmerman's home, Zimmerman might be in the right. But the young man wasn't anywhere near Zimmerman's home. Furthermore, the young man didn't have any kind of means to reasonably defend himself. Therefore, it would seem that Zimmerman is guilty of murder; and will probably get off scot-free because sadly, there's no justice when an African-American male gets shot by a white man/whilte-hispanic person. Now if the young man had shot Zimmerman out of self defense and Zimmerman had died in the process, you can bet that the 'great' law enforcement officals & DA would have charged the young man with murder in the 1st degree. But it seems like the DA is using the 'good ole boy' white establishment, to justify not charging Zimmerman with murder. As usual, Florida's DA's are pathetic, racists cowards!!!!!

    March 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      By Trayvon's girlfriends account all Zimmerman did when he approached Trayvon was ask what are you doing around hear.The next witness puts Trayvon on top of Zimmerman beating him with Zimmerman yelling for help.This was march 2nd you haven't heard because that won't sell papers. for the witness check

      March 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Romin2003

      You are 100% correct.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • bebop

      Exactly Michelle!! It's interesting how America wants to take race out of this situation....and frankly you can't. Just as you can't erase America's racial history. It's easy to gloss over this and make it a black issue. An African American child lost his life at the hands of someone else, and its overlooked!!! It's horrible!!! Now turn the picture around and if it had been a White child and African American man claiming self defense in Florida, we already know the ending of that story. America wake and have the conversation on racism!! It is still alive and well in America. For all of you who have posted some pretty horrible comments about this case. Someone died in this tragedy!!! And there are laws in this country that said its ok for that to happen. Let's pray it doesn't happen to you or your family. My heart and prayers go out to the Martin family.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ora

    rest in peace trayvo? you are in a better place. you are in god,s hand now.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gruber

    To all you pathetic MORONS out there who just can't help but bash Obama no matter what the occasion. GO TO HELL....yeah ...I mean it.

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

      the president does not need your support

      March 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sid

    I don't think the law is the problem – law ENFORCEMENT (specifically lack thereof) is!

    how is a "stand your ground" statute POSSIBLY applicable in a case where the shooter PURSUED the person from whom they claim to have defended themselves and did so in public? this isn't in dispute: Zimmerman PURSUED Martin – he admitted so IN REAL TIME on the 911 call! and the police claim they have no reason to doubt his claim of self-defense?

    again, not a legislative problem – you can pass and/or repeal all the laws you want but if the police & prosecutors refuse to enforce them the results don't change (just ask any wall st executive)...

    March 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      How do you define PURSUE by Trayvons girlfriends account all Zimmerman did was ask a question.The next witness Source (which was dated March 2nd and has been withheld by the national media) puts Trayvon on top of Zimmerman beating him.

      March 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      I think this is a very good point. Against this "stand your ground" law though I am, concentrating on it misses the larger point of police discretion. Bad policing is bad policing no matter the particular local context, and without this law that police department could have come to the exact same conclusions.

      Still, I can't help but suspect that a few of the original sponsors of this law knew that it would be a wonderful excuse to shoot black people. They must have known that the police are biased against young black men, and that the law would feed back upon this tendency.

      March 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kevin mills


    March 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      If If? there is a african american man that shot a white man over a skateboard in Florida he is free under the same law by the way it was in front of the guys 8 year old daughter no if's in this stayement

      March 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Paulo

    Maybe Forida residents will see the lunacy of this law and demand a change. Or maybe they'll be like sheep and do nothing and let the NRA run their state.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      It is not the laws fault. He did not follow the law; he was in the wrong. There is nothing wrong with Stand Your Ground if it is followed appropriately.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tendofreak

      Nothing wrong with the law. If someone approaches me and tries to do me harm then I should be able to protect myself. Not saying thats what happened here., just disagreeing with the statement that SYG law is no good.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |

      The only people that should be arguing that the stand your ground law should protect him is the defense. From the purported "facts" the law does not apply and any judge, jury, prosecutor would be able to identify that. Don't blame the law here until the final decision is handed down. It is still good law when applied correctly as I feel will be the eventual case here.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      I have wondered about Florida, for a while. Baby killing ok, black kid killing ok...

      March 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    There should be no attack on the Stand your Ground Law because the law was clearly not followed here as there was no force to be met other than the delicous skittles; so it is not the law that is a problem it is the person who violated it. AKA GEORGE ZIMMERMAN. Lock him up.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Glaziers930

    As far as Zimmerman being racist Cnn interview with a African American neighbor of Zimmerman said he mentors two African American Children that he met thru church

    March 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • zelda

      @ Glaziers930......stop it already!

      March 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truthspeaks

      Dude ur an ediot...GET REAL!?!

      March 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • toad

      please dont confuse these trolls with the facts

      March 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      @ toad check my sources against your speculation.All my sources many other post on this page

      March 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      wait a sec I am a idiot my last post was meant to go to truthspeaks

      March 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      Sorry toad I meant truthspeaks

      March 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sigh

      Well, as Zimmerman has African-American neighbors, one walking around the neighborhood should not have been a problem then, right? You're full of it. Quit trying to make Zimmerman the victim. If he truly were the victim, he's BE DEAD!!!!!

      March 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glaziers930

      @ sigh Thats my point one walking around the area was not a problem.If you did any research you would see that he also has family that are african american.It is pretty hard to view facts when they don;t match your unimformed speculation

      March 23, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sam

    "Zimmerman, whose family says he is Hispanic[...]"

    Look, does anyone realize how racist white Hispanics can be? Remember the conquistadors? Why do you think all of the indigenous looking Latinos are coming here? Partially to escape the privations and humiliation of 500 years of genocide and near-slavery from these terrible, TERRIBLE hacienda-owning f&%k-heads.

    Seriously. They consider the day wasted if they haven't massacred a village of Mayan indians or thrown a college student out of a helicopter by lunch time. Between that and a man standing around awkwardly on a corner waiting for a tool-laden pickup truck, I'll take the latter any day.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jeanne

    maybe potos can have everyone over on the lawn for a beer and talk about it

    March 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jack Myhogoff

    On a related note, Florida school district administrators changed the state's standardized testing date to today. Preliminary results show that scores are up 73% from last year.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jeanne

    did anyone think maybe when they are marching they should have a "take the hoodies" off chant....if the kid was wearing his football jersey or a regular sweatshirt he would not have intimidated the spanish guy in the first place.....hoodies are like black ski masks....and used in most crimes today

    March 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • thomas

      So, are you saying that only WHITE people are allowed to put their hoods up when it's raining – and it was?

      March 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • thomas

      I'm a white man in his 50s, I wear a hoodie. You are a BIGOT.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      YOUR COMMENT IS SO STUPID!- Not to mention you must not get around much...quite ignorant.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO © I'm not the Unibomber but

      That's just not true

      March 23, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kraman

    There is a common message among all those who support George Zimmerman, that he did not follow ground rule of a neighborhood vigilantly, which means he did not follow the law. The proponent of the "stand your ground" law himself said that the law is not applicable in this case. Zimmerman's conversation with the 911 dispatcher is self explanatory what he is up to and not what he says when things are not going his way. Trayvon Martin is not there to tell his story.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ladydi

    somebody has to answer for this kid's death.............

    March 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      Maybe YOU DON'T

      March 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
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