By Verena Dobnik
Hundreds of demonstrators, including music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce, joined Trayvon Martin's mother Saturday in New York City at one of about 100 rallies around the country calling for justice for the slain black teenager.
Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and the Rev. Al Sharpton led the noontime "Justice for Trayvon" rally on a blazing hot plaza in downtown Manhattan, where some people swooned as the temperature topped 90 degrees.
But the scorching sun did not deter protesters, some with hoodies covering their heads, from marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, chanting "Trayvon Martin," flanked by a lineup of police scooters. At the rally, speakers urged the crowd to join an Aug. 24 rally in Washington that organizers are likening to the famed 1964 march on Washington led by Martin Luther King.
Fulton told supporters she was determined to fight for societal and legal changes needed to ensure that black youth are no longer viewed with suspicion because of their skin color.
"I promise you I'm going to work for your children as well," she said. At a morning appearance at Sharpton's headquarters in Harlem, Fulton implored supporters not to think the tragedy involved Martin alone, saying, "Today it was my son. Tomorrow it might be yours."
"Trayvon was no burglar," Fulton said. "He had a drink and some candy. He had every right to be in that area."
The rallies in New York and elsewhere come a week after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of the unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, had followed Martin because he thought he might be a burglar; previous break-ins in the complex had been committed by young black men, neighbors said. Zimmerman said he shot the teen in self-defense after the two fought.
Sharpton said he wants a rollback of "Stand Your Ground" laws that make it easier for people to shoot one another if they feel threatened. He also said the Justice Department should investigate civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
"Racial profiling is not as bad as segregation, but you don't know the humiliation of being followed in a department store," Sharpton said, echoing a comment made by President Barack Obama earlier in the week.
Martin's brother also attended the rally, which drew a racially diverse crowd and a number of New York City politicians. Other vigils are planned in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta and many other cities.