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Thousands gather for ‘Justice for Trayvon’ rallies across US

The rallies and vigils were held in at least 101 cities.

Beyonce and Jay Z at the Justice for Trayvon rally in New York.
Beyonce and Jay Z at the Justice for Trayvon rally in New York.
Image: (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

CROWDS CHANTED “JUSTICE! Justice!” as people rallied in dozens of US cities, urging authorities to press federal civil rights charges against a former neighbourhood watch leader found not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.

The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and vigils outside federal buildings Saturday in at least 101 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and other locations.

In New York, hundreds of people — including Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce — gathered in the heat.

Protesters march during a rally yesterday in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Doug Strickland)

The protests came a day after President Barack Obama publicly identified with Martin and the deep frustrations felt among African-Americans over the verdict. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama said.

The president’s remarks, his most expansive since a Florida jury’s decision on 13 July to acquit George Zimmerman, were applauded by many at Saturday’s vigils.

The 29-year-old Zimmerman, who said he acted in self defense, fatally shot Martin in the chest on the rainy night of February 26, 2012, during an altercation in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.

Darrin Alexander, of Huntsville, talks to over 200 people as they gather for a rally yesterday in Huntsville, Alabama. (AP Photo/AL.com, Eric Schultz)

A jury of six women cleared him of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that his department would investigate whether Zimmerman could be charged under federal civil rights laws.

Such a case would require evidence that Zimmerman harbored racial animosity against Martin. Most legal experts say that would be a difficult charge to prove. Zimmerman’s lawyers have said their client wasn’t driven by race, but by a desire to protect his neighborhood.

- Additional reporting AP and AFP

Read: Obama: ‘Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago’>

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Amy Croffey

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