Black Panthers offer $10,000 bounty to catch Trayvon killer

Group also hopes to form militia as racial tension soars after killing of black teenager in Florida

A scandal that began with an act of vigilantism is threatening to breed more of the same, after a weekend of escalating tension saw militant activists announce a $10,000 (£6,300) reward for the "capture" of black teenager Trayvon Martin's killer.

George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer who followed and then shot the unarmed boy, had the bounty publicly placed on his head during a protest in Sanford, the Florida commuter town where Trayvon died.

It was announced by Mikhail Muhammad, leader of a small militant organisation called the New Black Panther Party, who said he was seeking up to 10,000 black men willing to form a militia to find Mr Zimmerman and administer what they regard as justice.

Asked if he was inciting violence, Mr Muhammad said: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." To the sound of cheers from followers, who wore black uniforms, he promised: "If the government won't do the job, we'll do it."

His comments were denounced by mainstream civil rights campaigners. Jesse Jackson, who preached at a Baptist church in Sanford yesterday, called it a "diversion," telling reporters: "I think disciplined, persistent, non-violent action works." The incident nonetheless highlights the increasingly polarising nature of the controversy surrounding Trayvon's death.

The 17-year-old, who was shot on 26 February, was remembered during protests in Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, New York and several other American cities over the weekend.

Demonstrators wore hooded tops and carried bags of Skittles, the brand of confectionery Trayvon was carrying during his fatal journey from a local convenience store to the home of his father's girlfriend, in a community called The Retreat at Twin Lakes.

Supporters of Mr Zimmerman, who claims to have killed Trayvon in self-defence, began publicly lobbying on his behalf. Joe Oliver, a "family friend" who appeared on ABC yesterday, said that he "couldn't stop crying" about the incident and is now in fear of his life.

Mr Oliver, who is mixed-race, was accompanied by Craig Sonner, Mr Zimmerman's attorney. Both men vigorously denied that their friend, who was initially described as a "white male" by police but claims (despite his appearance and surname) to be Hispanic, is racist. Records show that Mr Zimmerman had called emergency services almost 50 times in the past year to report suspicious activity in his neighbourhood. In most recorded instances, he identified the alleged "suspects" as young black males.

Shortly before Trayvon's death, Mr Zimmerman decided to pursue him, against the advice of a 911 operator. On a tape recording of his telephone call to police, he complains, "these assholes, they always get away". Then he appears to utter the slur "f***ing coons".

Mr Oliver was played an enhanced recording of the call by ABC, but claimed that Mr Zimmerman was instead saying "f***ing goons". He insisted that "goon is a term of endearment in the high schools these days". He then alleged that a screaming man, who can be heard in the background of other 911 calls made to Sanford police on 26 February, sounded like Mr Zimmerman. Trayvon's parents have previously identified the distressed man as their son.

Mr Sonner used the ABC interview to claim that photographs of Mr Zimmerman and Trayvon have given a misleading impression of the relative sizes of the two. Trayvon was taller than his killer, he said.

Mr Zimmerman remains in hiding. Local police, who failed to arrest Mr Zimmerman, arrested a man for sending threatening emails to Bill Lee, Sanford's former police chief. Mr Lee decided to step down "temporarily" last week while officials review the case to establish whether Mr Zimmerman should face charges.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas