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July 18th, 2013
07:08 PM ET

Rev. Jesse Jackson: Obama should 'offer moral leadership' on Trayvon Martin

Before George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, before Zimmerman was even arrested, President Barack Obama reached out to Martin's parents from the White House Rose Garden.

"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened," Obama said in March.

Zimmerman's attorneys would probably say we have now gotten to the bottom of it. Whatever Americans may personally believe, a jury has spoken.

But the president has not, not since Zimmerman walked away without his ankle bracelet.

Obama did release a statement the day after the verdict was announced that read, in part, "I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son ... We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this."

For many of those who think this was a miscarriage of justice, that statement was not enough. The president has remained on the sidelines post-verdict, letting his Attorney General Eric Golder do the talking, as the Justice Department weighs civil rights charges for Zimmerman.

Trayvon Martin's mother made an appeal Thursday for the president to get directly involved. Asked in an interview with CBS what she would like President Obama to do, she said, "That's pretty tough. To say the least, at least investigate what happened. At least go through it with a fine-toothed comb and just make sure all the t's were crossed and all the i's were dotted, because this is sending a terrible message."

"At some point the president must offer the moral leadership he has to offer. I think he's been actively involved, and I think the heat will continue to rise," said civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Jackson, the NAACP, and others have called on the Justice Department to file charges against Zimmerman.

"We think that the Department of Justice does have an action that it should pursue," said Jackson. "I think there will be a civil suit filed."

Beyond legal actions, Jackson is calling on people to boycott Florida, "to stop conventions, to isolate Florida as a kind of apartheid state given this whole "stand your ground" laws."

"I hope all actions remain disciplined, dignified and non-violent," said Jackson. "If they ever become violent, it shifts the sympathy from Trayvon who deserves it, to Zimmerman, who does not."

For our full interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson, check out the video above.

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