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. CM

    Two months ago in Portland a couple of black teenagers and a black adult beat the crap out of a white teenager on the bus and on video; they weren't charged with a hate crime. If if had been the other way around?

    March 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Did the police find the perps and then let them walk? No? Then you are just a bigot to make the comparison.

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

      Al Sharpton doesn't care when white people are the victims.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Li


      March 28, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CPAJay

    Is this a joke? Like the school has something to do with the legal system in Sanford, FL? Students in Newark NJ need to march out of school in protest of their parents tax dollars being spent to barricade the streets in Newark because a black drug addict overdosed in California. Where is the outrage that my white heart is breaking because the woman who sang my prom song in 1993 killed herself.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Brad williams

    Thas the problem. Most blacks cant spell. Thats why blacks have these off the wall names you cant pronounce. They think they can hide their literacy with some screwed up long name that makes no sense.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dude

      Pardon me, but your poor spelling, grammar, and diction are revealing your ignorance and undermining your argument.
      Thas = That's
      cant = can't
      "they can hide their literacy" = "they can hide their illiteracy"
      monkies = monkeys
      It's never too late to get your GED.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sayitstr8r

    i agree with Scef too, and I am white, though pretty brownish white, and so I have had the great opportunity to meet racism because of my skin color, too. if people think it's not real, or like the imbecile O'reilly on CNN says, 'no racism in america', check it out – you are mistaken. and all the parents want is a real investigation by real investigators instead of in house self protection, which is what they've been given so far.

    by the way, Obama is mistaken: that child does not look like his son, if he'd had one, that child IS his son, because every child is a gift to everyone in the world, ours to protect, defend, raise properly, nourish and care for with the best we have. If we did that, this tragedy could not have taken place in the first place.

    wake up america, you are killing yourself, poisoning yourself, every single day – with ignorance and defensively stupid reactions. you will be the nation you make. if you make it of stupidity, you will be stupid. if you make it of caring, you will be caring.. it's pretty simple, america, even you can understand this.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • MITPhD

      @sayitstr8r Thanks. Great comment. I think I will stop commenting because it is now clear one or more commenting are trolls. And others are just idiots or not willing to have a serious discussion using FACTS. Those of us that want a great future for all OUR AMERICAN CHILDREN – need to keep talking and work together to make that happen. Stay safe – and for now I will caution my sons against wearing a hoodie while carrying a bag of Skittles.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BS

    Is anyone at all surprised that they walked out?
    The problem with this whole case is the kids family is trying to make it a racial issue. What will get young minority students in an uproar? racial issues.
    Black teenagers jump, beat, and sometimes kill white teenage. Is this not a "hate crime?"

    March 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brad williams

    Our country has went to crap from some of the past presidents who just wanted to tryto rule the world. Thats why every country wants to fight us and go to war Wait and see what happens iran does to is once they get all he nuclear rods they need to make a war head. And watch north korea join them. One day americans will be wearing robes and speaking allah

    March 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CPAJay

    OMG Brad Williams, lol, I am sitting here hoping you are just here to antagonize the message board.

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

      He is.
      He'll be deleted soon.
      Because one has the freedom of speech doesn't necessarily mean they should excercise it.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Name*Man

    First time I heard that Sweet ha ha ha

    March 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    How *do* you keep your white sheet so wrinkle-free?

    March 23, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    Yeah students protesting the death of a 17 year old, NO, it ammounts to an excuse to take a day off from school. As if their protesting it is going to make a bit of difference.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gruber

    To ALL WHITE PEOPLE ON THIS BLOG> Do you really want to get into the history of hate crime and violence against ANYONE NOT WHITE? REALLY? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GO THERE?

    March 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gruber


    March 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I am willing to bet that the majority of people protesting here ARE white.
      Not everyone is a racist c racker, Gruber.
      Trying to paint everyone that way is being a racist, also.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Macgruber

      Hey genius, how is what you typed out not racist?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brad williams

    If it would have been a white kid shot by a black it would have gone un-noticed. It wouldnt be all over the tv. But anything involves a black the naacp gets involved n makes a big thing out of it. Im waiting on jesse jackson or al sharpton to say something

    March 23, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brad williams

    My white sheets stay starched and dry cleaned

    March 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You get your little costum dry-cleaned?
      How cute.
      Extra starch so it can keep you upright, spineless one?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      S/R 'costume'.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BOMBO © I'm not a Harvard Professor but

    Obama needs to invite Zimmerman and the Martin family to the white house for a beer.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Williams

      Yes, you CERTAINLY aren't a Harvard professor. Go read a book and stop bothering people.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • bfskinnerpunk

      Ok... now that's funny.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • jboh

      You need a brain transplant.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
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