President Barack Obama spoke out Friday about the trial of George Zimmerman, urging the public to appreciate the “set of experiences” through which the African-American community views the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Making an unannounced appearance at the White House press briefing, Obama began by making reference to remarks he made last year about Martin.
“You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said. “Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
The President said that the reaction many African-Americans have had to the acquittal of Zimmerman stems from experiences to which he can relate.
“There are very few African-Americans in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” Obama said. “There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.”
Obama also used the appearance to call for an examination of so-called “stand your ground” laws, which drew nationwide scrutiny after Martin was killed last year. On Sunday, a day after Zimmerman was acquitted, Obama called for “calm reflection” and said “a jury has spoken.
Friday’s appearance came a day before civl rights organizers have promised to hold vigils in 100 cities nationwide to protest the verdict.
This post has been updated.