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. John Williams

    Oh the racists are having a field day with this one. Whether or not this incident had anything to do with racism is irrevelant. A teenager was killed for walking down the street by a person who desperately wanted to believe that he was protecting "his property". For the record – more black people are killed by black people than black people are killed by white people. More white people are killed by white people than are killed by black people. Claiming rampant murder of white people by black people does not justify the shooter's behavior. If you don't believe that racism is a huge problem in this country, read some of these comments. Racists always believe that they are right and the people they hate are deserving of their "judgement". PLUS – Ever notice that most of the racists can't spell?

    March 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • bfskinnerpunk

      Actually, a white is 18x more likely to be killed by a black than visa versa. Should we do a "walk out" , too?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Economystic Extraordinaire

    anything to take the easy way out, Why not study harder so you don't make the same mistakes this guy did?

    March 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      Oh please. 1 day of protest isn't going to have an impact on anyone's scholastic achievements.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jboh

      You mean like Zimmie?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Scef

    What do the RICH, ESTABLISHMENT call these poor, racist, ignorant cowards – umm white trash.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brad williams

    I stand up well by myself. I have a strong spine. Come to south alabama and youll find out how strong we are banasy.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      You have just explained so much.
      Never mind.
      Carry on with your hatred.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • jboh

      It takes a strong back to raise a cross for burning.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sigh

      Strength in numbers, huh, Bradley? Got your cross all ready to burn?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bert Bigdongle

    Reginald Denny – advise you stay home this weekend!

    March 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chuck

    Go to Fox 35 Orlando and do a search on their website for "Man shot and killed in neighborhood altercation" if you want to hear an eyewitness interview. The eyewitness claims he saw something different form what is being reported on CNN. The police also have his testimony, which is probably why they didn't arrest Zimmerman.

    He is the only eyewitness that called 911 (the other callers only heard what happened).

    March 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      Yes, clearly there was an altercation. That doesn't change the fact that Zimmerman actively pursued the kid (against the request of 911 operators) and initiated contact with him. If he'd stayed in his car and observed, like he was supposed to, this kid would still be alive.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • jboh

      The cluster fox, TEA/GOP network. They have been caught airing false "news" several times. No more need be said about this story's lack of credibility.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gruber

    Once again...If a black anybody would have shot a white anybody...that black whoever WOULD BE IN JAIL RIGHT NOW. White sheets are for cowards...are you a coward brad? You obviously thinks its a joke..its not....but you have nothing to warry about. Ignorance truly is bliss.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PEACE BE STILL are so right....THESE people are really UNBELIEVABLE....from the President on down to ME...can never get no kind of peace....and for the clown who said his tax $$$$ are being spent for the very people who are sitting on here writing instead of working....I AM WORKING....AT MY OWN BUSINESS AND MY TAX $$$$ are being used to pay for my 10 employees...looking at me now smiling, happy because I just handed them they nice tax paying CHECKS....

    March 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brad williams

    How can you say a black would be in jail for killing someone. They do all their stuff at night. That way they cant be seen. The only way you see a black at night is if he smiles or opens his eyes real big. They blend in with the night

    March 23, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gruber

      OK...Thats Funny...but I've heard em all before. I ain;t even mad at ya'.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sherry Williams

      @ Brad Williams.....your lack of intelligence is so evident. Black people make up a beautiful range of colors from olive to chocolate. Hopefully you aren't a father because it would be a shame to know that your poisonous ignorance might be passed on to some innocent child.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JenniferUCD

    I don't know why the family thinks that because he is actually Hispanic, we should think that he couldn't be a racist. Whites don't exactly corner the market on racism.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BOMBO © I'm not the all-seeing-all-knowing-owl-man but

    Hundreds of comments, on this and several related threads. So many witnesses. So many people who are so sure of what happened. There is an investigation going on. Let's give it a chance, shall we. Don't let the popular media tell us everything. Some of us are old enough to remember Bernard Goetz. If you aren't, look it up, and pay special attention to the early media reports which were later proven to be completely wrong.

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

      And yet Bernie-boy is in jail, where this doosh should be...what's your point, Hoot?

      March 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO © I'm not the all-seeing-all-knowing-owl-man but

      Do you enjoy making yourself look stupid? I said LOOK IT UP. Maybe you should have done that before replying. He is NOT in jail. He was in jail for only a few months on weapons charges (as he should have been) but was found not guilty on the more serious charges including attempted murder. Why?

      Because, contrary to what the media initially reported, he was only defending himself against gang thugs who were trying to rob him. The only thing he did wrong was to bring the gun on the subway in the first place.

      Your reply proves my point. The media sets the story in stone in people's minds, and they are often wrong. You probably still believe, for example, that one of the thugs was shot twice. Wrong. They were all shot once each. One bullet missed. You probably believe he said "You don't look so bad, here's another one" before shooting one of them a second time. Wrong. Even the prosecuter eventually admitted at trial he NEVER said that. The witnesses on the subway never heard him say anything, much less THAT. Again, my point, for anyone who is a bit slow on the uptake is THE MEDIA DEFINES THE STORY AND THEY OFTEN GET IT WRONG. So be careful. Do a little research everyone, before spouting off. Let the investigators do their jobs.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brad williams

    Hey. Peace be still. You having 10 people making the movie Returning to the congo. Isnt a job. But if you say so.

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

    All – please do not feed the troll. Brad Williams is either a troll (trying to get spur heated argument by his inflammatory statements) or a complete idiot. Possibly both. Please ignore him and maybe he will go annoy others somewhere else.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marc in Florida

    This continued outcry is important for accountability in this tragic shooting. There should be no let up until a public statement is made clarifying what process will be used to determine the facts and the timeline. When laws are used to protect the guilty, there will be a continued deterioration of respect for law and order. The potential for anarchy and vigilatiism increases. I would suggest actions in regard to this shooting get on a fast track for justice. The folks protesting this young man's death are mad and they are going to get madder yet.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • butterfly

      Good point!

      March 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad williams

      they could give that guy who shot trayvon lethal injection and the black community would still be mad. Nothing will change them. This is just another excuse they can use that they are black and that supposedly all blacks are mistreated

      March 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      That's because they are all stupid and make judgements without looking at all of the facts. I just think it is sad that this guy will get arrested because of the ignorant masses and will not receive a fair trial. Everyone has already convicted this guy without even trying to hear the whole story.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brad williams

    This is the price is right. Hey. Al sharpton. Come on down. Give us your two cents in on this like you always do

    March 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Sharpton's opinions are not worth two cents!

      March 23, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
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