There's a sign outside U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson's congressional office: "Trayvon Martin's Murderer Still At Large. Days With No Arrest: 25."
Tuesday, when the sign read "24," Wilson toted it to the floor of the House of Representatives. There, Wilson vowed to keep vigil with a daily speech in honor of the 17-year-old Trayvon, a constituent who was slain by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.
"I will go to the floor every day," Wilson said Wednesday. "When I go tomorrow, it’ll be 26."
Her first speech came shortly after the Justice Department said its Civil Rights Division would review the case, and that the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would probe how the investigation into the shooting was handled by local authorities.
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Trayvon, of Miami Gardens, died Feb. 26, after George Zimmerman called Sanford Police to report someone suspicious in his gated townhouse complex. The call was one of many from the 28-year-old Zimmerman to police over the years; it was also one of several when he called to report the presence of a black male.
Zimmerman, an aspiring police officer who once attended a citizen police academy, told police he fired in self defense after the young man came at him from behind and attacked him. He was not charged, sparking national outrage that has spread to Congress.
In an interview Wednesday, Wilson said that Trayvon’s death struck her as far too similar to that of another child for whom she had pursued justice just a few years ago: Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old boy who died after being manhandled by guards at a state-run boot camp in 2006.
"Mr. Speaker, I am tired of burying young black boys," she said Tuesday on the House floor. "In Florida we have another Martin, Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a renegade wannabe policeman neighborhood watchman."
Although the investigative process is out of her hands, Wilson wants to have a forum in Miami to talk about racial profiling by police, a topic that’s drawn renewed debate since Trayvon’s death.
She recalls worrying about her own son, now 30, when he got his drivers license as a teenager. She said she bought him a cell phone so he had it with him in case he was ever pulled over. And he was, Wilson said, despite being a young man who "looked like a nerd."
Wilson, a former school principal who heads a mentoring organization for young black men called "5,000 Role Models of Excellence," has a pamphlet she passes out that explains what happens if a child is arrested. Its first instruction: "Freeze! Do not move until you are told to do so." It urges young people to keep their hands in plain view, not to run from police, and to always carry identification.
"That’s a situation that you can never talk about enough, educating children and police officers," she said. "It has to be a continuous conversation until such time as everybody understands."
Wilson said she’ll attend a rally Thursday in Sanford in support of Trayvon, and she’ll also press Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to use the power of their offices to press for charges in the teen’s death.
"I’m going to work this all the way through until such time justice is served for Trayvon," she said. "That’s why I have that calendar out there."