SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers donned hoodies Thursday to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot to death last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
At a Capitol news conference, members of the black, Latino and Asian Pacific Islander caucuses called on the federal government to intervene in the investigation and used the case to highlight the problem of racial profiling in America. One by one, lawmakers spoke from a podium draped with a hoodie and holding a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles –- items Martin was carrying when he was shot.
“I know thousands of Trayvon Martins,” said Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). “I know thousands of African American and Latino young men and boys who are victimized every day in America simply because of the color of their skin.”
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer, told police Martin looked suspicious because he was wearing a hoodie and admitted to shooting the teenager. He said he acted in self-defense and has not been charged.
Lawmakers were outraged by remarks from Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera that Martin’s choice of clothing was as responsible for his death as Zimmerman.
“How can a young man with nothing more than candy in his hand and a soft drink be gunned down and now be accused of causing his death simply by what he was wearing, the same hoodie that Bill Belichick wears every Sunday on the sidelines of an NFL football game,” Bradford said, referring to the head coach of the New England Patriots. “Why isn’t he menacing? Why isn’t he threatening?”
As new footage from the night of the shooting emerged showing no obvious signs of injury to Zimmerman, California legislators called on authorities to arrest and prosecute the neighborhood watch volunteer.
“This should not be done in the press. This should be done in the court of law,” said Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena). “Having this one month pass without charges being brought against this individual for shooting an unarmed young man....You can talk about schoolyard fights, about who started it, what happened. This person killed another person.”
Earlier in the day, state Sen. Curren Price Jr. (D-Inglewood) presided over the state Senate in a hoodie — a nod to U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), who wore a hooded sweat shirt and sunglasses on the House floor Wednesday. The chamber adjourned for spring recess in memory of Martin, after half a dozen senators wearing similar garments shared personal stories of discrimination.
State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) said Martin had become the “21st century Emmett Till,” a reference to the 14-year-old boy who was abducted, mutilated and slain in Mississippi in 1955 after he supposedly whistled at a white woman.
“God help us if, in the United States, wearing a hoodie warrants capital punishment,” Wright said. “Wearing a hoodie is not a crime.”