MIAMI (AP) — Several hundred people joined the father of shooting victim Trayvon Martin on Saturday to honor the Miami teen's memory, echo nationwide calls for racial equality, and speak out against a self-defense law that they believe may have helped to acquit the man who fired the fatal shot.
The Miami rally was one of at least 101 demonstrations taking place outside federal buildings across the country. The Florida case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defense, guns and race relations.
Many wore T-shirts bearing the slain 17-year-old's image and waved signs at the Miami gathering, held a week after a Florida jury acquitted neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman of all charges in last year's shooting.
Some brought their children. Martin's father, Tracy, spoke at the rally outside a downtown federal courthouse.
"This could be any one of our children," he said. "Our mission now is to make sure that this doesn't happen to your child."
He recalled how he vowed to Martin as he lay in his casket that he would seek justice.
"I will continue to fight for Trayvon until the day I die," Martin said. "Not only will I be fighting for Trayvon, I will be fighting for your child as well."
Former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shot Martin on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, after the two fought during a confrontation in a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford, 245 miles north of Miami. Zimmerman lived in the complex; Martin was there visiting his father and his father's fiancee.
Prosecutors and Martin's parents claimed Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin, who was black. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself when he shot Martin, identifies himself as Hispanic.
For his defense, Zimmerman did not invoke Florida's "stand your ground" law, which eliminates a person's duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical threat. Instead, he relied on a traditional self-defense argument.
Nonetheless, the judge included a provision of the law in instructions, allowing jurors to consider it as a legitimate defense.
Rallygoer Shantescia Hill carried a sign that read: "Everyone deserves a safe walk home."
The 31-year-old mother, who is black, said she wants to see Florida's "stand your ground" law repealed. "I'm here because our children can't even walk on the streets without fearing for their lives," she said.
As Hill spoke, an organizer shouted through a loudspeaker and the crowd repeated her words.
"I am Trayvon's mama!" the leader shouted.
"I am Trayvon's mama!" the crowd responded.
Karline Raphael, 40, a teacher from Miami, came with her 17-year-old daughter and 16-year-old niece.
"We wanted to show our support to the parents," Raphael said. "We're still living in a racial society. ... We see every day that we're still living in racially segregated areas."
Her daughter, Lee-Ana, agreed.
"When I found out about the verdict, I really felt something," she said. "People do look at you and judge you based on your skin color."
Speaking about the case Friday, President Barack Obama said it is a reality for black men in American to "be followed in a department store" while shopping or to walk down the street and "hear the car doors lock." The nation's first black president said he had both experiences before he rose to social and political prominence.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that his department would investigate whether Zimmerman could be charged under federal civil rights laws. Zimmerman's lawyers have said their client wasn't driven by race, but by a desire to protect his neighborhood.