The NAACP, Rev. Jesse Jackson and other civil rights activists are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney Gen. Eric Holder to press federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watchman who was acquitted by a Sanford, Fla., jury on Saturday in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“The most fundamental of civil rights—the right to life—was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin," NAACP President Ben Jealous wrote in a letter to Holder shortly after the verdict was announced. "We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation. Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today.”
“This verdict represents a tragic miscarriage of justice," Barbara Arnwine, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement. "Yet, there is still the potential for justice to be served through a civil suit brought about by Trayvon Martin’s surviving family members, and also through civil rights charges being brought against Mr. Zimmerman by the Department of Justice."
The Justice Dept. launched a probe of the Zimmerman case earlier this year, but has yet to comment on Zimmerman's acquittal.
“If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action," Holder said in April during a keynote speech to Al Sharpton's National Action Network convention. "And at every step, the facts and law will guide us forward.”
But Holder, the nation's first African-American attorney general, cautioned in subsequent comments that there is a “very high barrier” when seeking to bring federal criminal charges in such cases, TheHill.com noted.
A Justice Department official told CNN late Saturday night that it "continues to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial."
On Sunday, Jackson called on the Justice Department to "intervene" and “take this to another level.”
"I remain stunned at the decision," Jackson said on CNN's "New Day." "That the grown man, armed, murdered the unarmed boy going home."
"I think that we clearly must move on to the next step in terms of the federal government and in terms of the civil courts," Sharpton said on MSNBC Saturday. "Clearly, we want people to be disciplined, strategic. This is a slap in the face to those that believe in justice in this country."