US & Canada

Trayvon Martin to receive honorary college degree

A protester holds up a photo of Trayvon Martin in New York City. Image copyright Getty Images

Florida Memorial University will award a posthumous degree to Trayvon Martin, five years after the black teenager was shot dead by a neighbourhood watchman.

His parents will accept a degree in aeronautical science on his behalf on 13 May.

The university said it wants to honour the 17-year-old's ambition to become a pilot before he died in 2012.

His death prompted nationwide protests and a fierce debate about race relations in the US.

The unarmed black teenager was walking home from a shop in Sanford, Florida, when he got into an altercation with George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer.

Mr Zimmerman, the son of a white father and Hispanic mother, argued he acted in self-defence and with justifiable use of deadly force.

A jury acquitted Mr Zimmerman of second-degree murder in 2013.

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Following the verdict, protests erupted in cities across the US including Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington and Atlanta.

The case was instrumental in launching the national Black Lives Matter social movement.

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the teenager's parents will accept the degree in Miami Gardens, where Ms Fulton went to school.

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Media captionLawyers for George Zimmerman, 29, argued he acted in self-defence

Roslyn Clark, the university's president, said in a Facebook post the school was honouring Mr Martin for "his long dream and the steps he took during his young life toward becoming a pilot".

"Sybrina, our alum, epitomises strength and dignity as she uplifts other victims of violence while effecting change for a more equal and just society," she added.

Ms Fulton said she was "grateful" for her son's honorary degree.

"In 1997 I graduated from FMU with a Bachelors degree in English with a minor in Mass Communications. It's now 20 years later & now my son #TrayvonMartin will receive his Bachelors in Aviation, something he loved," she said in a Facebook post.