Jesse Jackson Sr. told attendees of a Sanford, Fla., town hall meeting Sunday that Trayvon Martin, the African-American teenager who was killed last month in the town, is “a martyr.”
Martin was shot and killed Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who followed the 17-year-old high school student. Zimmerman told police at the time that he believed Martin looked suspicious.
As it turned out, Martin was carrying a pack of Skittles and a bottle of ice tea. Zimmerman has not been arrested, stoking outrage and protests both in the town of Sanford and elsewhere nationwide.
“Trayvon is martyr, he’s not coming back, he’s a martyr, murdered and martyred,” said Jackson Sunday. “Now we must illuminate the darkness with the light that comes from the martyr.”
Jackson told the Los Angeles Times Friday that “blacks are under attack,” adding that “targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business.”
“No justice, no peace,” he told the paper.
The Martin case has attracted reactions from a range of political leaders. President Barack Obama expressed sadness Friday, saying, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich interpreted the comments as interjecting race into the controversy, describing Obama’s remarks as “appalling” and “disgraceful.” (SEE ALSO: Gingrich lashes out at Obama for ‘disgraceful’ comments)
Fringe African-American groups, including the New Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, have made veiled calls for violence. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan predicted “retaliation” would come “soon and very soon,” while the New Black Panthers have offered a $10,000 reward for the “capture” of Zimmerman, saying “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
Jackson reacted Sunday to more radical suggestions, saying, “I think disciplined, persistent, non-violent action works.”