The parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot dead in Florida, have joined protesters during a day of demonstrations across the United States.

The 17-year-old’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, addressed the crowd in New York, backed by music stars Jay Z and Beyonce, who joined campaigners in a moment of prayer.

Protests were held in more than 100 US cities, sparked by the acquittal of Neighbourhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

He was found not guilty of killing Trayvon during an altercation in a gated community in February 2012, after successfully arguing he was protecting himself when he shot the youngster.

Trayvon’s death has become a flashpoint in national debates over self-defence laws, guns, and race relations.

Mrs Fulton told protesters: “Trayvon may not have been perfect, but he was mine. We loved him, we supported him, we cared for him, just like you do your kids.

“Of course we’re hurting, of course we’re shocked and disappointed. But that just means that we have to roll up our sleeves and continue to fight.”

Meanwhile, Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, spoke at a vigil in Miami.

He vowed to “fight for Trayvon until the day I die”, adding: “This could be any one of our children. Our mission now is to make sure that this doesn’t happen to your child.”

The rallies came after President Barack Obama spoke publicly about Trayvon’s death and the deep frustrations felt among African Americans over the not guilty verdict.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he told reporters.

Praising the “incredible grace and dignity” shown by Trayvon’s parents, the president said “some soul-searching” on race was in order.

Although he did not comment directly on the Florida verdict, he called for a review of controversial “stand your ground” laws, which allow citizens to use lethal force – rather than retreat – if they sense their lives are at risk.

“I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?” Mr Obama asked.

“And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?”

Trayvon’s parents said they were “deeply honoured and moved” by Mr Obama’s comments.

“President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him,” they said in a statement. “This is a beautiful tribute to our boy.”

As well as appealing for a review of the self-defence law, campaigners are pushing the US Justice Department to investigate filing federal civil rights charges against Mr Zimmerman.

Such a case would require evidence that he harboured racial animosity against Trayvon.

Mr Zimmerman’s lawyers say the shooting was not driven by race but by a desire to protect his neighbourhood after a spate of burglaries.

source:  skynews