Raleigh, N.C. — Seven days after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin, people gathered in Raleigh and nationwide for rallies to help raise awareness of what they say is racial-profiling and injustices in the criminal justice system.
The Florida case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defense laws, guns, and race relations. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed self-defense, identifies as Hispanic. Martin was black.
Hundreds of people gathered for The Triangle for Trayvon Rally at Moore Square Sunday afternoon and then marched nearly a mile to Martin Street Baptist Church for a prayer service.
State NAACP President Rev. William Barber addressed the crowd, saying that, even though Martin's death took place in Florida, local lawmakers need to take notice.
"We've got 'Stand Your Ground' laws here in North Carolina, and we've got to repeal 'Stand Your Ground' in North Carolina," Barber said. "Not only do we have to repeal the law, we've got to pass anti-racial profiling laws right here in North Carolina."
Nationally, the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network organized "Justice for Trayvon" rallies and vigils outside federal buildings in at least 101 cities: from New York and Los Angeles to Wichita, Kan., and Birmingham, Ala.
On Saturday, Sharpton spoke to supporters in Manhattan, telling them that he also wants a rollback of stand-your-ground self-defense laws.
"We are trying to change laws so that this never, ever happens again," Sharpton said.
Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, also spoke to the New York crowd. "Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours," she said.
Sharpton and other supporters want the Justice Department to pursue federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that the department would investigate whether Zimmerman could be charged under those federal civil rights laws, which would require evidence that he harbored racial animosity against Martin.
Most legal experts say that would be a difficult charge to bring.
Holder also said the shooting demonstrates the need to re-examine stand-your-ground laws nationwide.