Rallies Seek 'Justice'

By Barrow, Bill | Winnipeg Free Press, July 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

Rallies Seek 'Justice'


Barrow, Bill, Winnipeg Free Press


Zimmerman acquittal spurs U.S. protests

ATLANTA -- One week after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, people gathered nationwide Saturday to press for federal civil rights charges against the former neighbourhood-watch leader and to call for changes in the nation's self-defence laws.

The Florida case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defence, guns and race relations. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed he was protecting himself when he shot Martin, identifies himself as Hispanic. Martin was black.

For some attendees, particularly those who are black, the rallies seemed as much about those larger issues as about the verdict.

"It's personal," said Cincinnati resident Chris Donegan, whose 11-year-old son wore a hoodie to the rally, as Martin did the night he died. "Anybody who is black with kids, Trayvon Martin became our son."

The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network organized the "Justice for Trayvon" rallies and vigils outside federal buildings in at least 101 cities, from New York and Los Angeles to Wichita, Kan., and Atlanta, where people stood in the rain at two federal buildings, with traffic blocked on surrounding downtown streets.

Chants rang out across the rallies. "Justice! Justice! Justice! ... Now! Now! Now!" "'We won't forget." "No justice! No peace!" Many also sang hymns, prayed and held hands.

Many participants carried signs: "Who's next?" "I am Trayvon Martin." "Enough Is Enough."

Most rallies began at noon. In New York, hundreds of people, including Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce, gathered in the heat.

Fulton told the crowd she was determined to fight for societal and legal changes needed to ensure black youths are no longer viewed with suspicion because of their skin colour.

"I promise you I'm going to work for your children as well," she told the crowd.

At a morning appearance at Sharpton's headquarters in Harlem, she implored people to understand the tragedy involved more than Martin alone. "Today, it was my son. Tomorrow, it might be yours," she said.

In Atlanta, speakers noted the rally occurred in the shadows of federal buildings named for two figures who had vastly differing views on civil rights and racial equality: Richard B. Russell was a Georgia governor and U.S. senator elected in the Jim Crow South; Martin Luther King Jr. is the face of African-Americans' civil rights movement.

"What's so frightening about a black man in a hood?" said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who now preaches at King's Ebenezer Baptist Church.

"History would suggest that we have plenty of data to be worried when we see other folk moving through our neighbourhoods in hoods. Some of them have on pinstripe suits, but in their hearts, they're wearing a hood. …

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