It only took two and half days for more than a million people to sign a petition asking the Department of Justice to bring federal charges against George Zimmerman.
"No petition that we’ve ever had on our open petition platform has ever grown this fast," says Anna Galland, the executive director for MoveOn.org. "I think it really speaks to the sense of outrage many people feel around the whole situation."
Galland calls the petition "the first step in a broader campaign," noting that several other Zimmerman trial-related petitions have popped up on MoveOn.org, including ones that call for performers and tourists to stay away from Florida and ask jurors not to profit off of the trial.
Galland also says that MoveOn.org had one of its biggest denial-of-service attacks ever Sunday morning, barring at least 100,000 people from showing their support. The NAACP reported that its site was also down for part of Sunday because of an overwhelming response. People are also getting involved by texting “JUSTICE” to 62227.
On Saturday, a jury of six women found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. In the hours after the verdict was read, the petition was launched. It says, in part, that"the most fundamental of civil rights -- the right to life -- was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin. We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation."
The federal government can now bring its own charges against Zimmerman, and that wouldn't be considered double jeopardy, because the federal government is a separate and sovereign entity from the state of Florida. The charges can also be brought at any time because there is no statute of limitations.
In a statement sent to HLN, the Department of Justice said it is continuing to investigate the Zimmerman case, which it has been doing since last year:
"As the Department first acknowledged last year, we have an open investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin. The Department of Justice's Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial. Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial."
The provision that federal authorities have been investigating and reviewing is whether there is evidence that Zimmerman committed a hate crime against Martin under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. It says, in part, that when a person “willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of …a firearm … attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color…or national origin of any person shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if … death results from the offense…"
Zimmerman was facing second-degree murder and manslaughter charges for killing Martin in Sanford, Florida. Martin was walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood on Feb. 26, 2012, when Zimmerman saw him and told police that he looked suspicious. The two got into a fight, and Zimmerman said he was forced to draw his gun and shoot Martin in self-defense.
Zimmerman, who showed no emotion as the verdict was read, is now a free man.