News & Politics

NAACP Urges Justice Department to Open Civil Rights Case Against George Zimmerman

A petition appealing to the Department of Justice has garnered over 470,000 signatures.

Protesters call for justice for Trayvon Martin at the Million Hoodies Union Square protest in 2012.
Photo Credit: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

A leading civil rights group isn’t done demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. In the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for shooting the unarmed teenager, the NAACP is urging Americans to sign their petition pressuring the Justice Department to open a civil rights case against Zimmerman.

The petition on has already garnered over 470,000 signatures, and NAACP head Benjamin Todd Jealous is pushing for more. “We're calling on the U.S. Justice Department to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman and have launched a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder,” Jealous wrote in an e-mail to MoveOn members.

The petition states: “The most fundamental of civil rights—the right to life—was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin. We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation.”

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The appeal comes two days after the Justice Department announced they would review the facts of Trayvon Martin’s killing to see if a federal civil rights case is warranted. “Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction,” the department said in a statement.

But experts say that federal civil rights charges are unlikely. As MSNBC’s Adam Serwer reports, the government would have to prove that Zimmerman shot Martin out of racial malice.

“Based on what I’ve seen, I think it would be difficult to envision proving racial intent beyond a reasonable doubt here,” former Justice Department official Samuel Bagenstos told MSNBC.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.