APPresident Barack Obama has released a statement following last evening's verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. The verdict caused immediate controversy and there are a number of plans for protests.
Here's the full statement:
"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."
Obama first waded into what was a simmering debate over Martin's death in March of 2012, when civil-rights leaders and others helped explode the case into a national story amid reports that the Sanford, Fla., police had not arrested or charged Zimmerman.
His public statement back then broke usual precedent for his administration, which doesn't normally comment on ongoing cases. Obama, however, reflected on the "tragedy" with a personal tone.
"My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said in the Rose Garden of the White House, answering a shouted question from a reporter. "All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves."
"Obviously, this is a tragedy," he added. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through," Obama said. "All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this has happened."
It's likely now that the Obama administration and the Justice Department will face pressure from groups to pursue a civil rights case against Zimmerman — something the department suggested was possible on Sunday.
More than 400,000 people have now signed a petition from the NAACP that urges Attorney General Eric Holder to act and open a civil rights case against Zimmerman, a spokesperson said Sunday afternoon.
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