UPDATE: Obama issued a statement Sunday afternoon.
The White House has so far refrained from commenting on the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, despite scattered protests around the country and calls for the administration to pursue federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
The last statement President Obama made about the case was a Rose Garden appearance in which he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Critics say Obama’s remarks helped fan anger and set in motion charges against Zimmerman – charges that were dismissed with relative speed by the jury in Zimmerman’s trial Saturday night.
Having added to the emotion surrounding the case, Obama so far is doing nothing to defuse it and prevent potential racial violence of the kind that accompanied the initial verdict in the 1992 Rodney King case, in which white Los Angeles police officers were pronounced innocent in the beating of King, who was black.
After riots broke out, the Justice Department of then-President George H.W. Bush started a new investigation and lodged a civil rights case against the officers. They were eventually convicted.
In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, the NAACP is urging the Obama Justice Department to also pursue federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Coincidentally, Bush will visit Obama at the White House Monday to stage an unrelated event.
Meanwhile, protests against the Zimmerman verdict broke out in several cities Saturday night, including Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and a handful of cities in Florida. Protestors in Oakland smashed some windows and lit fires.
Obama may be calculating that any further involvement by him in the case at this point could backfire and stir emotions further. But the White House will ultimately have to address the matter, even if it is in answer to reporters’ questions about the verdict and the potential for federal charges.