Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the country following the acquittal of George Zimmerman. A six-member jury found Zimmerman not guilty on all charges in his second-degree murder trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin. On Sunday, rallies were held in cities nationwide including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Oakland and Austin. The Los Angeles protesters shut down a major freeway for 20 minutes. In New York City, thousands marched through the streets of Manhattan to Times Square and then Harlem.
The Justice Department has reopened its investigation of Zimmerman for potential hate crimes charges in Trayvon Martin’s killing. The federal inquiry was suspended while Zimmerman’s trial took place. In addition to the federal probe, Zimmerman could also face a civil lawsuit from Martin’s family. On Sunday, two of Martin’s cousins spoke out from the family’s Florida church.
Roberta Felton: “Just remember, Trayvon, as Sybrina always said, could have been your son, could have been my baby, could have been anyone in America’s baby, just walking to the store and coming back with Skittles and iced tea. Things do happen in life, but sometimes it’s not fair.”
Iesha Felton: “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else again. There’s no reason for this to happen to any other families. No one should have to go through this.”
The National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is seeking temporary asylum in Russia so he can eventually make his way to permanent refuge in Latin America. Snowden made the announcement in a meeting with representatives of human rights groups in Russia.
Edward Snowden: “I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell U.S. secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted.”
Snowden cannot leave Russia because the United States has revoked his passport. Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have all floated asylum offers since Snowden was left stranded last month. Russia has asked Snowden to stop harming U.S. interests if he wants to stay. One of the Russian activists who attended Friday’s session said Snowden believes he meets those conditions because his leaks are not damaging the United States.
Tatiana Lokshina, Human Rights Watch: “He did not find Putin’s remark, as regard to the possibility of his getting asylum in Russia, problematic because, as he says, he did not do any harm to the United States, and he was not planning to do any damage. So, yes, he wants to stay here officially, but he perceives it as a temporary state, because eventually he would want to move to Latin America.”
Despite Edward Snowden’s public statement seeking asylum, the Russian government says it has yet to receive a formal application from him. The Obama administration, meanwhile, continues to demand that Russia remand Snowden to U.S. custody. In his first known contact with a foreign leader over Snowden’s plight, President Obama had a phone discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend. In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney criticized Russia for allowing Snowden to meet with human rights groups at the airport.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “I would simply say that providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government’s previous declarations of Russia’s neutrality and that they have — and that they have no control over his presence in the airport.”
At the State Department, spokesperson Jen Psaki warned that granting Snowden asylum by Russia or any other country could jeopardize U.S. ties.
Jen Psaki: “There’s no question that, as we’ve stated broadly with any country that would have a role in assisting him either in transit or in a final — final place for him to live, that that would raise concerns in our relationship. However, we’re not at that point yet. They still have the” —
Reporter: “Raise concerns, or would it damage the relationship irreparably?”
Jen Psaki: “Well, at least this hasn’t happened yet. They still have the opportunity to do the right thing and return Mr. Snowden to the United States, and that’s what our hope is.”
At least 50 people were killed Sunday in a wave of bombings across Iraq. At least 28 died and 98 were wounded when three car bombings hit the city of Basra. Iraq is seeing its worst sectarian violence since 2008, with more than 2,800 killed since the start of April.
Thousands of people on both sides of Egypt’s political divide are rallying today amidst a visit from a top U.S. official. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is in Cairo for the first high-level U.S.-Egyptian talks since the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. On Sunday, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson mocked the U.S. for refusing to brand Morsi’s ouster as a coup, which would in turn jeopardize $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid.
Gehad El-Haddad: “This is not about President Morsi being released. This is not even about his personal safety. This is about protecting the democratic choice of the Egyptian people and the ballot box choice that they have gone and stood for hours in the sun for over five times across the past two years. This is about protecting the will of the people and not allowing the military to take on a political role and not sanctioning a military coup while the U.S. is afraid to use the 'C' word still.”
In a speech on Sunday, the head of Egypt’s armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, defended Morsi’s ouster, saying the military was enforcing popular will. The interim Egyptian government continues to form a new Cabinet. On Sunday, the veteran diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei was sworn in as Egypt’s interim vice president for international relations.
The Texas state Senate has given final approval to the anti-choice measure initially blocked by Senator Wendy Davis and a “People’s Filibuster” late last month. On Friday, Texas senators voted 19 to 11 to approve to a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks, hinder access to the pill form of abortion and shut down nearly all of the state’s abortion clinics. More than 2,000 protesters filled the Texas State Capitol building in Austin to denounce the measure late into the night. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has vowed to sign the bill into law, but opponents say they will challenge it in court.
The Pentagon is claiming the hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay is on the decline. The military’s count of prisoners on hunger strike has slowly dropped over the past several days from a high of 106 to as low as 81. A prisoner must fast for several consecutive days to be designated a hunger striker, and military officials say 99 of the estimated 102 hunger-striking prisoners have recently eaten meals. An estimated 45 prisoners are still being force-fed through nasal tubes. The Guardian reports the Pentagon’s estimate may be taking advantage of a brief pause in the hunger strike with the holy month of Ramadan. A defense attorney says the prisoners are likely taking in token amounts of food to honor the tradition of breaking the daily Ramadan fast. The hunger strike began in February in protest of the prisoners’ indefinite captivity and President Obama’s failure to deliver on his promise to close Guantánamo.
A U.S. drone strike in Pakistan has reportedly killed two people. The victims were described as suspected militants, but their identities have not been confirmed.
The Pakistani schoolgirl attacked by the Taliban last year appeared at the United Nations on Friday to deliver her first speech since undergoing surgery and to celebrate a global day in her honor. Malala Yousafzai was left seriously wounded when militants shot her in the head for campaigning for the rights of girls. On Friday, her 16th birthday, Malala said she is undeterred by the Taliban’s efforts to silence her voice.
Malala Yousafzai: “Dear friends, on the 9th of October, 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died; strength, power and courage was born.”
Yousafzai says she intends to focus her campaigning on seeking compulsory free education for all children.
The U.S. Department of Justice has unveiled new rules on how prosecutors acquire the communications of journalists, following widespread criticism of its practices earlier this year. On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder said journalists must be under criminal investigation before their emails and phone records can be subpoenaed. Media outlets would also have to be notified of investigations targeting their reporters unless the attorney general deems that such disclosures would harm the criminal probe involved. The issue broke open earlier this year after it was revealed federal officials seized the phone records of the Associated Press while investigating a government leak on a failed al-Qaeda plot. Fox News reporter James Rosen also had his records searched after being named a potential “co-conspirator” in a leak on North Korea’s nuclear program.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced she is stepping down. Napolitano will leave her post to become the new head of the University of California system.
A group of 12 U.S. war veterans and their allies have had their convictions dismissed for an antiwar protest in New York City last fall. The Veterans for Peace members refused to leave the Vietnam Memorial in Lower Manhattan at the 10 p.m. curfew so they could continue reading the names of thousands of dead U.S. soldiers dating back to Vietnam. The group was convicted on Friday. But in a rare decision, the presiding judge immediately ruled that throwing away their convictions was in the best interest of justice.