It was an emotional day on Capitol Hill yesterday, as the parents of Trayvon Martin found support among members of Congress who turned the death of their 17-year-old son into a rallying cry against racial profiling.
Trayvon's parents spoke briefly before a Democrats-only congressional panel, as many in the crowd watched and tried to catch a glimpse of the parents whose son was shot and killed Feb. 26 in a Sanford, Fla. gated community.
Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, told the panel:
"Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon is your son. A lot of people can relate to our situation and it breaks their heart like it breaks our heart."
Martin's father, Tracy Martin, thanked, "everyone who is holding the legacy of Trayvon. Trayvon is sadly missed and we will continue to fight for justice for him."
During the two-hour forum, the lawmakers and witnesses openly criticized the police investigation of the shooting and the failure of police to arrest the admitted shooter, George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, 28, has said he acted in self-defense. Federal and state officials are investigating.
Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat whose district includes Sanford, said during the forum:
"It is very important that we have independent eyes on this situation. I am hoping we take this as a teachable moment. I am looking forward to how the Justice Department handles their independent investigation."
At a news conference after the forum, Martin and Fulton renewed their calls for justice in their son's death.
When asked whether he thought his son's death was a hate crime, Tracy Martin said: "Yes, I believe he was racially profiled." The family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, said racial profiling also was a factor in the way the police conducted their investigation.
According to the Associated Press, Tuesday's session was not an official House Judiciary hearing, so no votes or formal action could occur. The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, said the meeting was intended to be a discussion of racial profiling, hate crime laws and Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which eliminated a person's duty to retreat when threatened with serious bodily harm or death.
But much of the discussion revolved around criticism of the police investigation, the failure to arrest Zimmerman, Zimmerman's actions, and reassurances to Martin's parents that "we got your back," as Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, put it.
Earlier Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner said "clearly what happened is in fact a tragedy," but he steered clear of calling for Zimmerman's arrest as some lawmakers have done. "It's being investigated by state and federal officials, which I think is appropriate," said Boehner, R-Ohio.
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