Protests are continuing nationwide in the aftermath of the weekend acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Hundreds of people marched in Los Angeles and San Francisco on Tuesday night for the fourth straight day. In Washington, D.C., Rev. Al Sharpton gathered with other civil rights leaders outside the Justice Department to call for rallies in 100 cities this weekend demanding “Justice for Trayvon.”
Rev. Al Sharpton: “Let us be clear: It is now, because of these laws, and upheld by a jury in this trial, where anyone walking — committing no crime — can be followed or approached by another civilian, and they can use deadly force and say it was self-defense. That is something that is frightening and cannot be allowed to sustain itself in our society.”
In Florida, protesters have begun a sit-in at the office of Republican Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee. Organizers with the group Dream Defenders want Scott to call a special legislative session to repeal Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. They have vowed to remain until their concerns are addressed. Demonstrators also rallied Tuesday at the Florida Department of Justice field office in Gainesville.
Speaking Tuesday at the NAACP’s annual convention in Orlando, Attorney General Eric Holder said it is time to push back against “Stand Your Ground” laws nationwide.
Attorney General Eric Holder: “By allowing, and perhaps encouraging, violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety. The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation: We must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”
The music legend Stevie Wonder has announced he is boycotting Florida and all other states with “Stand Your Ground” laws in the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. During a performance in Canada, Wonder said he would no longer perform in Florida until “Stand Your Ground” is repealed.
Stevie Wonder: “I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again. As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”
The lone juror from George Zimmermnan’s trial to speak out publicly since his acquittal continues to stoke controversy. On Tuesday, Juror B37, as she is known, told CNN’s Andersoon Cooper that she thinks Trayvon Martin’s killing was justified.
Andersoon Cooper: “In your heart and in your head, you are 100 percent convinced that George Zimmerman, in taking out his gun and pulling the trigger, did nothing wrong?”
Juror: “I’m 101 percent that he was — that he should have done what he did, except for the things that he did before.”
Cooper: “You mean he shouldn’t have gotten out of the car, he shouldn’t have pursued Trayvon Martin, but in the final analysis, in the final struggle…”
Juror: “When the end came to the end…”
Cooper: “He was justified?”
Juror: “He was justified in shooting Trayvon Martin.”
In a statement, four other jurors from the trial sought to distance themselves from those comments, saying the opinions of Juror B37 “were her own.”
The National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has formally applied for temporary asylum in Russia. Snowden has been stranded in Russia, unable to travel to Latin America, where three countries have offered him refuge. On Tuesday, a Russian lawyer who helped prepare Snowden’s application said he fears returning to the United States could subject him to torture or even the death penalty.
Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena: “He is being persecuted by the United States of America, or rather, by the U.S. government. That’s what he wrote; I’m quoting him. He fears for his life, for his safety. He fears that torture or the death penalty can be used against him.”
By seeking temporary asylum rather than political asylum, Snowden technically would not need the personal approval of Russian President Vladimir in order to stay. Putin has said Snowden can remain so long as he stops leaking U.S. secrets.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney renewed the administration’s demand for Snowden’s extradition. Carney said Snowden is neither an activist nor a dissident.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “Our position is that Mr. Snowden ought to be expelled and returned to the United States and that he should not be allowed to engage in further international travel, except as necessary to return to the United States. You know, he is not a human rights activist. He is not a dissident. He’s accused of leaking classified information. He’s been charged with three felony counts related to the leaking of classified information. And for those reasons, he should be returned to the United States.”
The secret court overseeing government surveillance has ordered the Obama administration to release the 2008 decision authorizing the Internet spying program PRISM. The Internet giant Yahoo had asked the FISA court for permission to disclose PRISM after Edward Snowden revealed its existence last month. Snowden has alleged that PRISM taps directly into the servers of the nation’s Internet giants to collect millions of communications in the United States and abroad. The White House has until late next month to decide which parts of the decision will be published.
A coalition of 19 groups has filed a lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency’s wholesale collection of phone records. Brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the lawsuit accuses the NSA of violating the groups’ right of association through the collection of metadata on all U.S. calls. It is the first legal action to directly target the NSA since its massive surveillance operations were revealed.
Republicans have dropped their blockade of a number of President Obama’s appointees in return for preservation of the Senate filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had threatened the so-called “nuclear option” of using Democrats’ Senate advantage to push through new rules ending Republicans’ ability to stall presidential picks and leave top positions unfilled. After Republicans backed down on Tuesday, the Senate immediately voted to confirm Richard Cordray as the first permanent director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. The deal also means confirmation votes for six other nominees, including Thomas Perez for Labor Secretary and Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. In return, Democrats agreed to replace two Obama picks for the National Labor Relations Board appointed during the Senate recess. The new picks are Nancy Schiffer, an attorney with the AFL-CIO, and Kent Hirozawa, the chief counsel to current NLRB chair Mark Pearce.
The United Nations continues to warn the conflict in Syria is fueling the worst refugee crisis since the Rwanda genocide. On Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said most of Syria’s 1.8 million refugees have fled since the beginning of the year.
António Guterres: “There are now nearly 1.8 million Syrian refugees known to UNHRC in the region. Two-thirds of them have fled Syria since the beginning of this year, an average of over 6,000 people a day. We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago. This crisis has been going on for much longer than anyone had feared, with unbearable humanitarian consequences.”
The official U.N. death toll for Syria’s more than two-year conflict is near 93,000.
Egypt’s interim government has sworn in its first Cabinet since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi earlier this month. The army general who led Morsi’s removal, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, stays on as defense minister. The Cabinet also includes three women. No positions are held by members of the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist parties. The Muslim Brotherhood says it does not recognize the new government, calling it “illegitimate.”
In North Carolina, more than 100 people, most of them women, were arrested during the 11th weekly “Moral Monday” protest at the state Legislature. This week’s action focused on attempts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to curb abortion rights and the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. The protest came just days after the North Carolina state House approved sweeping anti-choice restrictions latched onto a motorcycle safety bill. The state Senate is expected to pass the bill, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has said he will sign it despite his campaign promise not to approve new abortion restrictions. More than 800 people have been arrested in weeks of “Moral Monday” protests organized by the NAACP against the Republican agenda in North Carolina, including cuts to social programs, restrictions on voting rights and the rejection of Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s healthcare law.