By Benjamin Todd Jealous
One and a half million people.
As of this morning, more than one million, five hundred thousand people have signed an NAACP petition asking the Department of Justice to pursue federal and civil rights charges against George Zimmerman after he was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin.
I knew I was not alone in my outrage, anger, and heartbreak over this decision. When a teenager’s life is taken, and there is no accountability for the man who killed him, nothing seems right in the world.
But we cannot let these emotions rule us. Instead, in these most challenging of times, we are called to act. That begins with the pursuit of justice for Trayvon Martin, and it continues with a comprehensive campaign to fight the underlying problems factors that led to his death.
The first step is clear: we must make sure that George Zimmerman is held accountable for his actions. The jury’s decision must be respected and the rule of law upheld, but that does not mean the investigation should be considered complete. The trial judge’s decision to discount debate about race or racial profiling in the courtroom leaves open questions about Zimmerman’s motivation and intent.
The Department of Justice has the power to investigate whether Zimmerman’s actions constitute a hate crime under federal law. The Department has closely monitored the case since March, and only put their investigation on hold to respect the state’s trial. Since the verdict and the overwhelming response, Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to re-open his investigation.
As he told the 104th NAACP Annual convention earlier this week, “I am concerned about this case.”
This is the power of one and a half million voices. One voice in angry protest can be ignored, but when one million people speak as one — and thousands more take to the street in peaceful protest, rallies and vigils — we can change the world.
So what comes next? As we closely follow the Department of Justice’s investigation, we must continue to draw on our collective outrage and refuse to let the memory of Trayvon Martin fade from the hearts and minds of the nation.
Read More We Are Trayvon | Benjamin Todd Jealous.