SANFORD, Fla. - Religious leaders in Florida are calling for a new investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin, 17.
On Thursday morning, members of the Florida chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council held a press conference outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford.
That is where George Zimmerman is on trial for the February 2012 shooting death of Martin.
Zimmerman, although is he is facing second degree murder charges, has plead not guilty by reason of self-defense. He said Martin attacked him in his Sanford neighborhood.
Prosecutors, though, contend Zimmerman racially profiled and intentionally shot and killed the Miami teenager, who was in town visiting his father.
At the SCLC press conference, chapter president R.L. Gundy of Jacksonville said Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights the night of the fatal shooting.
The group said in a press release, "Trayvon Martin had a constitutional right to be where he was and doing what he was doing without expecting to be profiled, challenged, approached or threaten(ed) for walking down the streets or on a sidewalk."
Gundy said Thursday he believes there is a culture in America that makes it okay to racially profile individuals.
He even went as far to say Florida's Stand Your Ground gun law favors non-minorities.
"Yes, you can quote me on that," he said when asked by Jacob Long, First Coast News reporter.
The law is not in play in the Zimmerman murder trial, but Gundy said had the former neighborhood watch leader backed off of Martin, the teenager would still be alive.
"Trayvon, even though unfortunately he is gone, something good can come out of this. If we sit down and look at it for what it is and say we need to do something different in this country because it's not just in Florida, it's all over this country," Gundy said.
One solution the group is proposing is a letter to the Department of Justice.
Gundy said the letter will ask the department's civil rights wing to investigate whether Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights by racially profiling him.
"I read the initial charging documents, and they said he was racially profiled," Gundy said.
He went on to say his fear is more people will be gunned down for what he called their race if nothing is done to make racial profiling laws stronger.
"People need to go out to the polls and vote," he urged.
Meanwhile, the religious group as a whole is reissuing a plea to the public to react to the Zimmerman verdict peacefully.
Gundy said it is better to use energy to enact change rather than respond negatively to whatever the verdict might be.
First Coast News