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Updated: Sat, 20 Jul 2013 12:45:19 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Trayvon Martin rallies set for more than 100 U.S. cities

Trayvon Martin rallies set for more than 100 U.S. cities

One week after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, people began to gather for rallies scheduled nationwide to press for civil rights charges against the former neighborhood watch leader.

The Florida case has become a flashpoint in debates over guns, race relations and self-defence laws. Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic. Martin was black.

The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network organized the "Justice for Trayvon" rallies outside federal buildings in 100-plus cities: from New York and Los Angeles to Wichita, Kan., and Birmingham, Ala.

- Read about the debate over 'stand your ground' laws

- Trayvon Martin's shocked over acquittal

Sharpton wants the Justice Department to pursue a case.

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced 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.

At the rally launch in Washington D.C., James Teal called his country one of the 'most racist countries in the world.'

"From Martin Luther King days up to now, really nothing has changed," he told CBC News. "Today is a day to spark outrage so we can bring some kind of federal charges."

Rallies are scheduled for noon local times. On Saturday morning in Manhattan, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, told gathering supporters, "Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours."

The rallies come a day after U.S. President Barack Obama made more comments about the case, in which he said that Martin could have been him 35 years ago.

"I think it's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away," he said.

Obama said that before becoming a senator, he himself experienced walking across the street and hearing the locks click on doors, among other similar situations. It's that set of experiences, he said, that informs how of the black Americans interpret what happened one night in Sanford, Fla.

While acknowledging racial disparities in how criminal laws are applied, the African-American community isn't "naive about the fact African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they're disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence," he said.

He said race relations are, however, getting better.

Zimmerman 'not a racist' say lawyers

Martin's parents said Obama's words gave them strength.

"What touches people is that our son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, could have been their son," they said in a statement. "President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy."

Zimmerman's defense attorneys said they acknowledged and understood the racial context of which Obama spoke, but wanted to "challenge people to look closely and dispassionately at the facts."

Those who do so, they said, will see it was a clear case of self-defense and that Zimmerman is a "young man with a diverse ethnic and racial background who is not a racist."

"While we acknowledge the racial context of the case, we hope that the president was not suggesting that this case fits a pattern of racial disparity, because we strongly contend that it does not," they said in a statement. Reaction to the president's remarks has been mixed.

"In a case that's just bristling with racial tension, this is probably a sane and reasonable statement that can be made, that we need to step into each other's shoes for a minute and understand through each other's eyes the impact of a particular situation, namely this trial and the killing of this boy," said Connie Rice, an African American civil rights attorney in Los Angeles.

She remembered how Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about integration as the answer to America's racial problems.

"Well guess what?" she said. "We decided not to integrate. We decided to desegregate and we decided to end Jim Crow but we never integrated, we are not fluent in each other."

Stevenson said she wished he'd also addressed black women in his remarks.

For Nolan V. Rollins, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, having the president of the U.S. talk about racial profiling in the first person is emblematic of two things.

"It says how far we've come, no question," he said. "But it also says how far we have to go

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