, NEW YORK CITY, New York, Jul 21 – Superstar couple Jay Z and Beyonce joined protesters across the United States amid simmering anger over a not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.
A call for nationwide vigils designed to press for federal action in the emotionally charged case drew thousands to one New York rally.
Elsewhere turnouts were more modest, with the crowds drawn overwhelmingly from the black community, including in Miami where the slain 17-year-old’s father spoke.
“The death of my son, we believe, has to make changes in our society and repeal the laws that allow to kill somebody just because someone thinks (he) is suspect,” Tracy Martin said.
The surprise appearance of hip hop star Jay Z and his wife, pop superstar Beyonce Knowles, helped swell the crowd at a Manhattan protest addressed by Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and civil rights leader Al Sharpton.
Briefly overcome with emotion as she thanked the crowd for their support, Fulton vowed to ensure her son’s death would not be in vain but pleaded for protests to be kept peaceful.
“Trayvon would be proud,” she told the crowd. “Not only do I have to do what I have to do for Trayvon, I’m going to work for your children as well.”
In Miami, between 300 and 500 people turned out for the rally, but a heavy downpour quickly dispersed the crowd just after noon — and some participants expressed disappointment at the small, mainly black turnout.
“You see only black people, when this should be a Hispanic, white issue,” said Marie Falaise, 39, a Miami resident born in Haiti.
On the US west coast, hundreds gathered for rallies in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland. While there were cases of violence in the last two cities in the days immediately after the verdict, the Saturday rallies were all peaceful.
In Chicago, several hundred protesters that marched came from a mix of racial backgrounds — including one man who carried sign that read “Latinos for Trayvon” — but the crowd was still dominated by African Americans.
Speaker after speaker compared Martin’s death to that of city native Emmett Till, whose racially-motivated murder in Mississippi was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.
Grandmother Dorothy Clay, 66, wore a pack of Skittles on her hat in honor of Martin, who was out buying the sweets on the night he died.
She said she fears for her kids and five grandchildren in a country where a “cowardly, wannabe hero-vigilante” can get away with killing an unarmed teenager.
Eight-year-old Anthony Simbler said he came to the rally because “Trayvon didn’t deserve to die.”