ORLANDO — College students around Florida rallied Monday to demand the arrest of a neighborhood watch captain who shot an unarmed black teen last month, though authorities may be hamstrung by a state law that allows people to defend themselves with deadly force.
Police have described the man who fired the shot, George Zimmerman, 28, as white; his family says he is Hispanic and is not racist.
Zimmerman claims he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford.
Students held rallies on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, where prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if charges should be filed. The students demanded Zimmerman's arrest.
Zimmerman noticed Martin as he was patrolling his neighborhood on a rainy evening last month and called 911 to report a suspicious person. Against the advice of the 911 dispatcher, Zimmerman followed Martin, who was walking home from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles in his pocket.
"I don't think a man who exited his vehicle after the 911 dispatcher told him to stay inside the car can claim self-defense," Carl McPhail, 28, a Barry University law school student, said at the Sanford rally.
The 70 protesters at the Sanford rally chanted "What if it was your son?" and held posters saying, "This is not a race issue." Many carried Skittles.
The case has garnered national attention and civil rights activist Al Sharpton and radio host Michael Baisden planned to lead another rally Thursday in Sanford.
Prosecutors may not be able to charge Zimmerman because of changes to state law in 2005. Under the old law, people could use deadly force in self-defense only if they had tried to run away or otherwise avoid the danger.