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Race and the trial of George Zimmerman




Signs of support for Trayvon Martin during a protest at Pershing Square in Downtown L.A.
Signs of support for Trayvon Martin during a protest at Pershing Square in Downtown L.A.
Jose Martinez / KPCC

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Today is the first day of the trial in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

One Febrary 26, 2012, 17-yo Martin was walking back to his father's house when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, thought he looked suspicious and followed him.

Their encounter ended with Martin shot dead, and Zimmerman claiming he fired in self-defense. Martin was unarmed.

But amid this case is the issue of race: Martin was black, and African-Americans throughout the country believe he was racially profiled.

These sensitive issues are coming to the fore as the trial begins, and for blacks in LA it's hard not to see some parallels between what happened to Trayvon Martin and what happened to Rodney King more than two decades ago.

Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson explains what those involved in the George Zimmerman trial could learn from this city's past.

And Darnell Hunt, professor of sociology at UCLA and author of, "Black Los Angeles," describes how this case on the other side of the country is hitting close to home for black Angelinos.