Brown said she hoped the tragedy would be a “teaching moment” for the local police and community, and would highlight those who “crown themselves as community watch representative and you don’t have an official community watch program.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said that he has a son not much older than Trayvon was, and “every time he leaves the house I get concerned.”
Martin, he said, “was executed for WWB in a GC — walking while black in a gated community.”
Other members offered their opinions on the case as well.
“I am convinced that there should have been an arrest,” said Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), an attorney by trade. “I am convinced that probable cause exists.”
“A hoodie does not make you a criminal,” he added. “You’re getting dangerously close to saying females can become victims by virtue of what they wear.”
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said that if Zimmerman had listened to the police dispatcher when he was advised to not follow Martin, “none of this would have happened.”
The Judiciary Committee member called Zimmerman’s story of how the events transpired that evening, as released by police and through his attorney, “not plausible.”
“Y’all have shown a tremendous amount of grace and I extend my sympathies to you,” he stressed to Martin’s parents.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), however, stressed that she was not going to try Zimmerman at that briefing.
In noting that Martin “had a right to access that street,” she joined her colleagues in calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. “I did not say convicted… but arrested,” she said.
Jackson Lee called for registration of those who undertake neighborhood watch and also praised the federal government’s involvement in the investigation.
“We have a legislative responsibility to end the killing of boys of all backgrounds in America,” she said.
Others delved further into what the case might say about race relations given that an unarmed young black man in a hoodie was deemed suspicious by the neighborhood watchman.
Conyers said that the case highlighted the need to pass his End Racial Profiling Act of 2011, which is stuck in a House subcommittee. Many of the bill’s co-sponsors joined him at the briefing.
“There are still great problems in this country with race,” said Cohen, one of those backers.
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said the case mixed racial profiling with vigilantism.
“This says a lot about who we are not as a country,” he said. “This is not the wild wild West; this is not Tombstone. …We’ve come a long way in this country but this just illustrates how far we have to go.”
“If Trayvon Martin was standing and George Zimmerman were on the ground dead, would Trayvon be arrested?” Richmond asked.
An audience member called out, “He’d be on death row.”
While carefully adding her two cents about the anger, call to action, and racial aspect raised by the case, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) made the panel chuckle with an admonition.
“I am restraining myself and trying to act in a way that I and others won’t become the focus; keep it on Trayvon,” Waters said. “I am on my best behavior today.”