Obama: 'Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago'

Lesley Clark

President Obama called on the nation to engage in "soul searching" as he made his first public remarks Friday in the wake of the controversy over the acquittal of volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Obama said he's talking with aides about steps that can be taken to avoid such incidents, including a possible review of the controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws in nearly two dozen states.

Obama delivered his first extensive remarks on racism as president during the brief remarks, explaining why African Americans, including himself, have been so pained by the case.

"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son," Obama said. "Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago."

Like other African American men, Obama said he's been followed in department stores and heard the click of car locks when he's walked past.

"I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida," Obama said. "And it's inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear"

But he said that despite criticism of the trial, it was handled properly and that "once the jury's spoken, that's how our system works."

And he called for calm, saying violence "dishonors what happens to Trayvon, and his family."

Protests began after the verdict was read last weekend and more demonstrations are scheduled for this weekend.

Lesley Clark
McClatchy Washington Bureau