Jay Z and Beyonce attended a Trayvon Martin rally in New York City on Saturday, joining Al Sharpton and other community leaders protesting Stand Your Ground laws. Protests and rallies took place in 100 cities across the country, reactions to the shooting death of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American boy, by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder last week.
Sharpton told the crowd that when he first heard about the Trayvon Martin case, he immediately flew to Sanford to a rally that was organized in the young man's name. Prior to boarding the plane, Sharpton learned that his own mother had passed away. "But I went down because if I couldn't hug my mother, I could hug Trayvon Martin's mother," he said.
The activist and MSNBC host then acknowledged that "two of the baddest artists of all time" were present at the rally. "Jay Z and Beyonce said they didn't want to speak and they didn't come for a photo op," Sharpton told the crowd. "Beyonce put a beautiful message up on Instagram. Let me tell you, that before a lot of you were down, Jay Z always supported us."
"Jay Z told me, 'I'm a father. Beyonce is a mother.' We all feel the pain and apprehension -- the laws must protect everybody, or it doesn't protect anybody," Sharpton said. "We do not come from hate, we come from love of children."
"Trayvon Martin had the civil right to go home that day," Sharpton told the cheering crowd. Chants of "I am Trayvon Martin" and "No justice, no peace!" dominated the event.
Beyonce asked for a moment of silence at a concert on the night Zimmerman's non-guilty verdict came down, after which she sang the chorus of "I Will Always Love You."
President Barack Obama personalized the matter in a surprise press briefing on Friday. "When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," Obama said. "I think it's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away. There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me."