Make US safe for minority youths: families of slain teens

Geneva (AFP) - Families of young shooting victims called Thursday for more to be done to protect minority youths in the United States, after a policeman shot dead an unarmed black teenager in Missouri last week.

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who killed in 2012 shooting by a neighbourhood watchman in a case that sparked national outrage, said young black teens in America today feel threatened.

"We should put our heads together to come up with a solution so our young people can stop dying and so they can have a future," Fulton said.

"I think far more needs to be done," she told AFP on the sidelines of a United Nations review in Geneva of the US record on fighting racial discrimination.

The shooter in the Martin case, volunteer neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman, was controversially acquitted after claiming self-defence under Florida's "stand your ground" law.

The killing sparked outrage over racial profiling and lax US gun laws.

Ron Davis, the father of another young black man who was killed in a shooting, also urged more action to end discrimination.

"If my son had been white, I think it wouldn't have happened," Davis told AFP.

Jordan Davis, 17, was killed in Florida in November 2012 when Michael Dunn, a white man, fired shots into the vehicle Davis was sitting in with three other unarmed black teens.

Dunn claimed he had felt threatened by the teens following an argument over their loud "thug music".

The jury in the case could not determine whether his self-defence claim was legitimate or whether he was guilty of murder, and the judge declared a mistrial.

Fulton and Davis's comments follow days of protests in a St. Louis suburb after a police officer shot dead unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday.

Both Fulton and Davis said they had been very affected by the shooting, which has stirred comparisons with their sons' cases.

"My heart goes out to the family... It's a tragedy to have to bury your child at such a young age," Fulton said.

The case has once again stirred up fear among African Americans, who can never know if they are going to be "harassed, profiled, followed or shot and killed," she said.

- 'Shoot you or incarcerate you' -

They have reason to worry. African Americans make up 13 percent of the US population but 50 percent of homicide victims, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination pointed out during its two-day review of the United States.

Fulton and Davis especially lamented the proliferation of "stand your ground" self-defence laws, currently in place in around half the states, which they said disproportionately affected African Americans.

Those laws, along with "mass incarceration" of minorities, has the community feeling under siege, Davis said.

The message to minorities, he said, is "either we're going to load up and shoot you, or we're going to incarcerate you."

During the UN committee review, which all UN member states must undergo periodically, US officials insisted their country was a "vibrant, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural democracy" dedicated to fighting racial discrimination.

They did acknowledge that gun violence, especially among minority communities, was a serious problem, but said efforts were being made to improve safety and that states with the "stand your ground" laws had been asked to review them.

They also emphasised efforts to crack down on unequal treatment within the criminal justice system, and stressed that racial profiling was illegal.

Fulton welcomed the dialogue, but said she remained unconvinced by the measures taken so far.

"The bottom line is that more lives are still being taken," she said.

"Until you stop that, this is all just a shadow with no meaning."