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As LA remembers race riots, Trayvon Martin's name is invoked

Twenty years ago this weekend, South Central Los Angeles erupted after four police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. On the anniversary of the riots, some are drawing parallels to the Trayvon Martin shooting.

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Civil rights leader and MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton appeared at a church rally in Los Angeles this week commemorating the two-month anniversary of Trayvon’s death, and in a piece for the Huffington Post called for calm and introspection in light of the riots 20 years ago.

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“I’ve fought for justice for Trayvon,” Mr. Sharpton wrote, “because I believe in America and I don’t believe we should burn it down.  Let’s prove that we are in fact the United States of America, and let’s not miss another opportunity to show just how great we can be.”

Six weeks after Trayvon’s death, a special prosecutor in Florida pressed second-degree murder charges against Zimmerman, who posted bond on April 20. The looming trial will be high-stakes, legal experts say, both for the ability of the courts to give Zimmerman a fair trial as well as the possibility of an acquittal, given the limited evidence prosecutors have to convict Zimmerman.

“Unless some previously undisclosed evidence emerges against George Zimmerman, he will not be convicted of any crime, and in any event I’m confident he will never be convicted of murder,” writes a concerned Jack Dunphy, the nom de plume of an LA police officer, at PJ Media. “When he is acquitted, or when a mistrial is declared with a hung jury, what will happen?”

And at least one central figure of the LA riots agrees that there is cause for concern.

“Enough is enough,” Henry Watson, one of a group of people to assault truck driver Reginald Denny in the opening moments of the riots, told KNBC in Los Angeles. “And you know, history has a tendency to repeat itself, you understand? So it’s boiling. It’s hot right now with the [Trayvon Martin] issue in Florida…. You can’t keep killing black folks. We’re not going to allow it.”

Indeed, the extent to which parts of America are still a racial tinder box may be tested by the outcome of the Trayvon Martin trial, Ben Crump, the Martin family’s lawyer, tells USA Today.

On Thursday, Mr. Crump, Sharpton, and Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, attended a rally in Los Angeles.

"You want to believe change has happened" since the riots, Crump said. "We will get a more definitive answer when the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case is rendered." 

IN PICTURES: The Los Angeles riots, twenty years later

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