Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, the parents of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, said on the Today show Thursday that the jury's decision last weekend to acquit George Zimmerman of Trayvon's murder will have lasting repercussions for young men of color.
"It's sending a terrible message to other little black and brown boys," Fulton told Matt Lauer of the verdict. "How do you get home without people knowing or assuming that you're doing something wrong? Trayvon wasn't doing anything wrong."
Martin was walking home from a convenience store in his Florida neighborhood in 2011 when Zimmerman, a night watchman who believed he was acting suspiciously, followed the teen and ended up fatally shooting him during an altercation. Tracy Martin said the family is "still shocked, still in disbelief" after Zimmerman was found not guilty on Saturday.
"We thought that the killer of our unarmed child was going to be convicted of the crime that he committed," he said during the interview, which was the first time he and Fulton had spoken publicly about the trial.
When asked by Lauer if he believed race played a role in the incident and its aftermath, Tracy Martin responded: "I think if Trayvon had been white, this would have never happened."
In the wake of nationwide protests about the jury's decision, Fulton issued a plea for nonviolence. "We think the protests should be peaceful protests," she told Lauer. "They have a right to protest. They have a right to be heard. But we just want to make sure that it is peaceful, that nobody gets hurt, that nobody gets arrested, that you don't damage your own property."
Watch their full Today show appearance below: