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
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
techResearchers recover 100s of nude photos from second-hand smartphones
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Systems Analyst (Retail)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Up to 20% bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An...

Head of Digital Marketing,London

To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Technical Manager / Lead - Mechanical.

£43000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading Br...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice