Al Sharpton, along with the family of slain teen Trayvon Martin, is calling for continued peace on the 20th anniversary of riots in Los Angeles that shook the country following the Rodney King verdict.
Sharpton has been addressing fears of racial unrest after the killing of the unarmed teen caused outcry on both sides, with many people frustrated that shooter George Zimmerman went uncharged and walked free for so long following the killing, and others feeling that the media had tried and convicted the shooter due to racial sensitivity in the case.
In comments made to Yahoo News, Sharpton explained again why the case angered so many people both within and outside the black community. The Rev. Al says that the initial decision to not charge Zimmerman was one that provoked a profound sense of injustice in many, sparking the peaceful protests seen around the country in the weeks leading up to the arrest of George Zimmerman:
“If Trayvon Martin had not been black then they would have had taken his killing a lot more seriously at the police station,” he says. “If the police had arrested Zimmerman that night there would not be a Trayvon Martin case or movement…Does it mean he’s guilty? No. But it does mean that he should have to go in front of a court of law and not be acquitted in the back of a police station.”
While many people have expressed fears of “race riots” should Zimmerman be acquitted, Al Sharpton believes that the climate has changed enough that rioting no longer seems a likely outcome:
“I think even though people are angry and as concerned as I am, we don’t feel like we have no options… Unlike [with] Rodney King, there’s defined leadership in Trayvon Martin’s case who have said from the beginning we cannot have violence.”
Al Sharpton has appeared alongside Martin’s grieving parents at several events to reinforce that the family wishes for protests to remain peaceful.