President Barack Obama's administration is facing pressure from hundreds of thousands of people calling for a civil rights suit against George Zimmerman, the Florida man who was found not guilty over the weekend in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
In a MoveOn petition drafted by NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous and approaching 250,000 signatures as of Monday morning, Obama was asked to direct the Department of Justice to get involved in light of Zimmerman's acquittal.
"Our members, like so many Americans, are outraged at the verdict. Justice has not been served. The facts are clear: a seventeen year old boy is dead because George Zimmerman shot him," Jealous said in a statement. "This is a sad day for our country and our justice system. What we saw take place in Florida vividly illustrates the broader dysfunction in our criminal justice system, where people of color still don't have access to equal treatment under the law. It is also highlighted the deadly problem with laws like 'Stand Your Ground,' that have been advanced by the NRA and others, that encourage vigilantes."
By Monday afternoon, more than 325,000 had signed the petition, which argues that Zimmerman should face a Justice Department suit for his "egregious violation" of Martin's "right to life."
Two similar petitions were posted to the White House's "We the People" online petition platform. One form, which had garnered more than 13,000 signatures as of Monday morning, called for quick action:
Petition Requesting Prosecution of George Zimmerman for depriving Trayvon Martin of his Constitutional Rights of Life and Liberty by the United States Department of Justice, Eric Holder, United States Attorney General in United States District Court as swiftly and expeditiously as is possible.
A second petition had attracted more than 1,000 signatures. Petitions typically need to reach 100,000 for the administration to provide a response.
Obama addressed the Zimmerman verdict on Sunday, saying that while Martin's death was a "tragedy" and many were upset with the outcome of the case, the "jury has spoken."
"I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," said Obama. "And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities."
The Department of Justice said Sunday that it was looking to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. The department had opened an investigation into the case last year following Martin's death, but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.
This post has been updated to include more recent information regarding the petition.