Local News

UNC students call for justice for Trayvon Martin

Posted March 28, 2012 1:21 p.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2012 2:36 p.m. EDT

— More than 100 students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill marched on campus Wednesday morning in memory of a Florida teenager whose shooting death has set off a firestorm of questions about the shooting and whether it might have been racially motivated.

Authorities in Sanford, Fla., say 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who told police he shot Martin in self-defense.

The teen was unarmed and reportedly had been walking home from a neighborhood store with a bag of Skittles in his pocket and a canned drink in his hand.

Zimmerman, 28, said he was pursuing Martin because Martin was acting suspiciously. He said he lost sight of the teenager and that Martin attacked him.

Police never arrested Zimmerman, touching off widespread public outrage and protests across the country.

Martin's supporters believe race played a role in the shooting. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic. They have said that their son is not a racist.

The outcry has prompted petitions for Zimmerman's arrest as well as investigations by a local grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice.

"It's important to stand together and let people know that justice needs to be served and that students care," UNC senior Irene Neequaye said Wednesday. "Young people care about the issue."

Marchers held signs and many wore hooded sweatshirts – that is what Martin was wearing the night he was killed.

A student rally to putting an end to racial profiling was also planned on campus for later Wednesday, which was expected to include speakers and petitions.

The rally is one of dozens that have taken place across the country and one of several this week in the Triangle.

A prayer vigil and rally were scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Mitchell Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Pittsboro. A candlelight vigil was also planned for 8:30 p.m. at Flash Back Bar and Grill in Raleigh.

Students at UNC and North Carolina State University have also planned meetings on their respective campuses on Thursday in an effort, they say, to show solidarity with Martin and Shaima Al Awadhi, a 32-year-old mother from Iraq whom family members and supporters say was the victim of a hate crime when she was beaten to death with a tire iron.

Similar gatherings for Martin were also held this week in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham.