SACRAMENTO (AP) — More than a dozen California lawmakers wore hooded sweat shirts Thursday on the floor of the Legislature in a symbolic gesture to protest the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
"A young man had his life taken in what amounts to vigilante justice," said Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, who helped organize a demonstration that involved lawmakers in both houses.
He later added, "God help us if in the United States, wearing a hoodie warrants capital punishment."
Lawmakers later adjourned the day's session in memory of the 17-year-old. Martin was shot to death while unarmed Feb. 26 by a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.
It was raining, and the teen had the hood of his sweat shirt pulled over his head. The shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, told police dispatchers he thought Martin looked suspicious.
Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense and has not been arrested, which has led many black leaders to describe it as a case of racial injustice. Martin is black, while Zimmerman's parents are white and Hispanic.
In the Assembly, Speaker John Perez and Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardenia, spoke against racial profiling and called for an investigation into Zimmerman's actions. Nearly all Democratic lawmakers stood in a semi-circle behind them, with some wearing the black, gray and blue sweat shirts that have become a symbol of the debate over the shooting.
Perez, D-Los Angeles, did not wear a sweat shirt on the floor but later donned one for a news conference.
Many lawmakers wore gray sweat shirts distributed by the Legislative Black Caucus emblazoned on the back with the words "In memory of Trayvon Martin."
Among them was Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who said lawmakers have a responsibility to demonstrate their rejection of discrimination in all its forms.
No Republican lawmakers were seen wearing hooded sweat shirts on either legislative floor, but Sen. Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, addressed his colleagues in the Senate and said GOP lawmakers shared the grief over Martin's slaying.
"In communities across the country, we read about too many needless deaths of our children. This should be a great concern to all of us," Huff said. "I hope we can see this as an opportunity to come together, to find the truth, to allow justice to be served and to maybe get to the point of healing."
Wright, who is black, came over and hugged Huff, who is white, after Huff finished his comments.
After the legislative session, Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, R-Fresno, said she did not participate because she did not have enough information about the shootings.
"I think people are innocent until proven guilty, and no one in this room knows what happened," she said.
California lawmakers were the latest politicians to don hoodies as a way to protest the Florida shooting. Earlier this week, New York state senators also wore sweat shirts in their chamber. On Wednesday, Rep. Bobby Rush, D- Illinois, spoke on the House floor while wearing a hoodie.
Head coverings are prohibited in the Senate, according to Chief Sergeant-at-arms Tony Beard, but the Rules Committee decided Wednesday to allow members to briefly wear symbolic hoods. Assembly rules provide for the removal of "inappropriately attired" members but do not specifically address head coverings.