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.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Florida • Trayvon Martin
soundoff (461 Responses)
  1. Gruber

    Zimmerman may not be a racist..be he is MOST CERTAINLY a blithering COWARD..who shot an unarmed boy (17) for absolutely no reason other than (he was Black)? Was he vandalizing? be-bopping to hard? streaking? screaming in hysteria? Flashing the neighbors? NO! he was walking (home) with skittles and a soft drink. White people know absolutely NOTHING about being stopped by "cops" for being "White". Spare me.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • pauljack

      Great comment.

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

      He was trespassing in a gated community. This Hispanic man had his reasons for defending himself from this thug in a hoodie. All the pictures of Trayvon when he was 13 are meant to sway public opinion. His Facebook page reveals that he was a drug dealer. Wake Up!!!

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

    Why do they keep pointing out that he is Hispanic?

    March 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • TriB

      I think people should be pointing out the fact that Zimmerman's father is a retired Magistrate Judge.

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

      Good point. I have never seen as much racism of spanish-descendant people against natives and blacks as in Latinamerica. If CNN wants to excuse whites and leave it to hispanics vs blacks, they are wrong. Mitt Rmoney's parents are also from Mexico.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Why do they keep pointing out that the victim is black?

      March 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike A

      This is to attempt to defuse the racial aspect...failed. When ex-neighbors in his High school hometown were asked if he were prejudiced, the responses were that they doubt he's racist since he's Hispanic and another said her black son used to chat with him on Facebook.

      This defuses nothing, his personality at 17 and 28 could be night and day and I know many biased people who can say "I'm not racist.. some of my best friends are ... seriously? So him not being technically white means he can't be prejudiced?

      March 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike A

      My reply was to Satt's question but it doesn't show that... bah.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. reader10

    As a neighborhood watch should he know who's living there.He is just a bully, acting macho.

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

    @Jeanne...you are the very definition of racial profiling

    March 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Glaziers930

    Sorry Zelad somebody has to report the facts Cnn isn't going to

    March 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. norelegin

    If Martin was white ans Zimmerman black, was it stll a "self-defence"?

    March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TO ALL BLACK PARENTS IN AMERICA...DON'T BUY YOUR KIDS XBOX 360...BUY THEM A LOADED REVOLVER

    AND LET THEM STAND THEIR GROUND! OR BETTER YET, GO OUT AND STRING UP ZIMMERMAN AND OBTAIN YOUR OWN JUSTICE IF THE LAW IS NOT GOING TO DO ITS JOB!

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

      No speculation lets hear your facts in the case

      March 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • OncoMom

      ....and we wonder where the ignorance starts.....

      March 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba™

      Ah! I think they already did buy their kids loaded revolvers and semi autos too. You're a little late with that advice. They all already have them. 🙂

      March 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      You're a moron for saying such an idiotic comment.

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

      I have a loss of words after reading this post and shall now log off my computer and go do something nice for someone in my locate area. I just hope I don't come across one of these kids you speak of.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. betterdays

    It's not hard to imagine how something like this could happen, at lleast not where I live. The neighborhood is "changing," there have been a lot of break-ins, and people are on alert. Nevertheless, charge the guy with something already and let's have a trial. It's the right thing to do.

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

    GUNS should be banned for private and law-enforcement of any sort. Common America, we are no longer in 20th century. We have more powerful and rich corps (tech/oil) than these gun companies and they should not have the dough to control the politicians to make such a stupid law.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      You mean how gun control stopped that terrorist in France from killing 7 people? Gun control does not work and never has. In 1991 we reached the highest number of murders in the U.S. which was just over 25,000 (check the FBI reports). Back then 12 states allowed conceal carry and approx. 270 million guns were in this country. Last year we've had the lowest number of murders since the 60's of approx. 12.5K (half from 1991 – see FBI reports) and now over 300 million guns. So murders have gone down not up.

      Is Zimmerman an idiot? Yes and should be arrested because he misused the "Stand your ground" law. The author of the law even stated that. He confronted the kid and antagonized him which is completely outside the boundaries of the law. There's nothing wrong with the law but he should be jailed.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      I forgot to add that there are now 43 states that allow to carry concealed.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James

    Lynching Zimmerman will never bring Trayvon back. If you were there and you know what happened then by all means tell us. Otherwise, don't turn this into something it isn't. Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty, no sense in making it a bigger tragedy than it already is. The truth is that Zimmerman is the only one who knows what really happened.
    Maybe he murdered that young man, how do you think he feels about this situation; how would you feel if you took someone's life? Justice doesn't care about race or rage, stop pretending your anger matters. Men are killing each other every day on the streets: armed, unarmed, guilty and innocent, where are the protests for that?

    March 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • kevin dixon

      I’m not even sure of your tone but by stating "Men are killing each other every day on the streets: armed, unarmed, guilty and innocent, where are the protests for that? It suggest to me that according to your statement this young man’s life is worth nothing! This is a kid man, have a heart.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MalcolmXcrement

    For the first time in my life, I'm proud to be Hispanic.

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

    Why do so many people assume that just because the kid had candy in his pocket and no gun that he was not capable of being a threat to Mr. Zimmerman or others? After the kid attacked Mr. Zimmerman and saw he was about to get shot he began to plead for his life, but he had already put himself too deep and died because of his actions. We try to look at justice being blind. but what if the shooter was white or middle eastern or black? This article and the actions of the police officers may vary strictly based on the color of your skin.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ireuel

    Lots of comments that have already come to a conclusion on either side of this. Sadly, no matter what the truth of this that shall be found out. The ones that have already judged this will not hear it. Sad that a person is dead but it is only some that are killed are brought to the level of attention as this one has. All killing is equally wrong for no matter what was its reason. But escalating just this one is going to quite possibly cause more. We are a very bizarre species that get energy from a select isolated killing of just certain killings and some killings are never even thought twice about. They had many in Chicago last month alone, it was just reported as a number and no names of the victims. They are all hate crimes no matter how you look at it.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Romin2003

    @Satt: my question exactly...and I agree that he is a coward, and also has probably unresolved self-esteem issues and grandiose delusions that he is a law enforcement officer.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CJ mom

    Zimmerman is sick. I fear for all of my kids 3 girls and two boys because of this case. My husband was pulled over for walking while black because the police didnt believe he lived in the neighborhood where we just bought a house in KY. Sad...but this is all too common. Justice for Trayvon...

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