WASHINGTON - In a packed forum on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the parents of Trayvon Martin found support among members of Congress who turned the death of their 17-year-old son into a rallying cry against racial profiling.
Martin’s parents spoke briefly before a Democrats-only congressional panel as cameras clicked in front of them. Many in the crowd, which filled the seats and lined the walls, strained to catch a glimpse of the parents whose son was shot and killed Feb. 26 in a Sanford, Fla. gated community.
“Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon is your son,’’ Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, told the panel. “A lot of people can relate to our situation and it breaks their heart like it breaks our heart.’’
Martin’s father, Tracy, thanked “everyone who is holding the legacy of Trayvon.’’
“Trayvon is sadly missed and we will continue to fight for justice for him,’’ Tracy Martin said.
During the two-hour forum, the lawmakers and witnesses criticized the police investigation of the shooting and their failure to arrest the admitted shooter, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 28, has said he acted in self-defense. Federal and state officials are investigating.
“It is very important that we have independent eyes on this situation,’’ said Representative Corrine Brown, a Democrat whose district includes Sanford. “I am hoping we take this as a teachable moment. I am looking forward to how the Justice Department handles their independent investigation.’’
At a news conference after the forum, Martin and Fulton renewed their calls for justice in their son’s death. When asked whether he thought his son’s death was a hate crime, Martin said, “Yes, I believe he was racially profiled.’’ The family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said racial profiling also was a factor in the way the police conducted their investigation.