Congressman on George Zimmerman Verdict: Defense Attorney 'May Incite a Riot'

Matt Berman
National Journal

In a dramatic end to a case that has unwinded for over a year, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of any charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was shot by Zimmerman.

The case wasn't just a fascination for the broader American public, but for politicians as well. This was especially true after President Obama said in March, 2012 that, if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon." On Saturday night, the reactions from D.C. started coming in soon after the not-guilty verdict was reached.

The first came from Rep. Corrine Brown, who represents Orlando, Florida:

This bold response came early from Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, who is widely viewed as a big part of the Democratic Party's future:

Castro was referring, in part, to statements during a defense press conference Saturday night where O'Mara said that if George Zimmerman had been black, he never would have been charged with Trayvon Martin's murder. In explaining that opinion, O'Mara said that "those people who decided that they were going to make [Zimmerman] a scapegoat would not have" if he he was black. As The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, O'Mara didn't really do himself any favors opining here, calling his statements "absurd." The defense's position, which won out in the end with the jury, was that Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense.

Castro later followed-up:

In a separate press conference, Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the Martin family said: "To everybody that put their hoodies up, and to everybody that said 'I am Trayvon,' his family expresses their heartfelt gratitude." In response to a similar question about what would have happened had Zimmerman been black, Crump said:

Well, we know that a 17-year-old unarmed boy was killed. And I think all America has to dig deep in their hearts to find how we as a society can learn from this tragedy and make sure it's not repeated.

Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York kept the "I am Trayvon" sentiment alive into Saturday night:

And Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland used the verdict as a call to action:

Rep. Gregory Meeks joined the other New York members of Congress in commenting on the verdict on Twitter. Like Rep. Cummings, he hoped that change could come in the case's aftermath:

Former congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner also weighed in: 

On the Republican side of the aisle, former RNC chair Michael Steele also spoke out on Twitter:

Just because Zimmerman has been cleared on all charges doesn't mean that this case is over. The NAACP on Saturday night posted a petition to the Department of Justice, asking Attorney General Eric Holder to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman. New York Congressman Jerry Nadler seemed to voice some support for such an effort:

In a retweet of NAACP president Ben Jealous, Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen did the same:


Although, as ever, a retweet is of course not necessarily an endorsement.

We'll keep updating this post throughout the weekend.