Executive Branch

'Trayvon Martin could've been me,' says President Obama

President Barack Obama made his first extended remarks about the George Zimmerman verdict Friday, asking Americans to look at how we view race, and how the country can move forward.

“Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago,” the president said at a White House briefing. “Where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?”

The Associated Press has this story and the remarks can be viewed on YouTube.

George Zimmerman was acquitted Saturday of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, after a jury found that he acted in self defense when he shot 17-year-old Martin, who was unarmed.

Obama noted that while the verdict angered many Americans, it was felt very strongly in the black community. Black men sometimes are followed while shopping, get nervous looks on elevators and hear car locks click as they walk down the street, he said, noting that he personally experienced such treatment before he became well-known.

“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.

He also mentioned the violence black communities experienced in recent times, CNN reports.

“Some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country,” Obama said. “ And the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history. … And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration.”

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in February 2012. Initially police declined to charge Zimmerman, citing the state’s “stand your ground law.” The president mentioned the law at the Friday briefing. It may be time to exam such self-defense laws, he said, and ask if they actually contribute to the kind of “ peace and security and order that we’d like to see.”

An ABA National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws began work in January and is scheduled to hold a final hearing seeking public input on the laws on Aug. 9, at the ABA’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco, as an earlier ABA Journal article discussed.

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