Sanford, Florida, March 24, 2012 (AFP) – A black political group offered a $10,000 reward Saturday for the killer of an African-American teenager, amid a nationwide uproar which has prompted a rethink of America’s race issues.
The New Black Panther Party (NBPP) displayed a wanted poster on its website with a picture of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, 17, last month.
“WANTED!!! For the murder of Trayvon Martin… ALIVE, not dead or harmed,” the poster read.
Several dozen supporters of the group, which is unrelated to the revolutionary Black Panther Party that was active in the 1960s-1980s, protested for the third time this week at the police headquarters in Sanford, Florida.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” leader Mikhail Muhammad told the Orlando Sentinel. “We don’t hate anyone, we hate injustice.”
The NBPP group has called for the mobilization of 5,000 black men to capture Zimmerman. Muhammad said the organization was receiving donations from black entertainers and athletes, with a goal to collect $1 million by next week.
Sanford police told AFP they were ignoring the NBPP’s call to capture Zimmerman, a white Hispanic.
Thousands of demonstrators have marched in at least 10 US cities to express their outrage over the attack, with some of the anger directed at local authorities handling the murder investigation.
They have not arrested or charged Zimmerman because he claimed self-defense, which allowed him to benefit from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that lets state residents use lethal force when they are at risk of being killed or seriously injured by an assailant. Zimmerman had a permit to carry a gun.
Meanwhile, in a separate event in Washington Saturday unrelated to the New Black Panther Party protest, at least 1,000 protesters — many in black hoodies, some with bags of Skittles candy like the one Martin bought before he was shot — gathered Saturday in the heart of the US capital to demand justice.
“This is bigger than you think it is,” said comedian Dick Gregory, an icon of the Civil Rights movement, who said he suspected that the full story of Martin’s death has yet to come to light.
“Don’t waste your time with anger until you get the whole truth… Stop being emotional and start demanding answers,” he said.
“We must fight to change the notion in this country that simply being a black man is a problem,” said Rashawn Davis of the Georgetown University chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“When I see all these angry faces, I want you to take this energy and put it in your heart and use it for fuel to change the country. All of us has to change the racist paradigm in the country,” he told AFP, adding that his group is in no way affiliated with the NBPP.
Police at the scene estimated the crowd at 1,000, while organizers put the figure at around 3,000, a day after a vigil for Martin in the capital’s low-income Anacostia district.
Despite the racially charged nature of the case, Zimmerman’s lawyer insisted his client was not racist.
“I asked him, ‘Are you a racist? Do you have anything against black people?’ and he said ‘No,’” Zimmerman’s legal adviser Craig Sonner told CNN on Friday. “I don’t see anything that indicates to me that he’s a racist.”
Sonner said Zimmerman and his wife acted as mentors to two teenaged African Americans, even after funding was cut for the program.
They have also helped at a fundraiser for an African-American church, according to the lawyer.
President Barack Obama has called for nationwide “soul searching” in the wake of the tragedy.
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