On the heels of Saturday’s acquittal of 29-year old George Zimmerman in the 2012 killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, the Justice Department says it will open an investigation to determine if criminal civil rights charges can be filed against Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense in the Florida shooting of Martin.
In an official statement, the Justice Department said: “experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation."
According to the Washington Post, Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to make a number of speeches in both Florida and D.C. in the coming days in response to the verdict.
The Justice Department's statement was released Sunday night amid a combination of peaceful protests and public outcries from friends and family members of Martin, celebrities, pundits, elected officials and the media. The reactions varied, but some organizations, such as the NAACP, acted fast. Immediately following the “not-guilty” verdict that was rendered on Saturday night via a six-person jury, the 104-year old historic civil rights organization called for a “federal civil rights probe” and posted on its website a petition, which garnered so much traffic that the site crashed. By Sunday night, nearly 450,000 people had signed the petition.
President Barack Obama had this to say following the verdict: "The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher.
"But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.
"And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.
"We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that's a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin."
In NYC, a rally is planned for later today in Times Square.