SANFORD, Fla. – “No justice! No peace!” for Trayvon Martin was the rallying cry heard not just here but around the world, March 31. A diverse crowd of thousands came out to a march and rally organized by the Florida NAACP. The march ended at the Sanford Police station.
Martin, a 17-year-old African American male, was gunned down by self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in late February. Zimmerman stalked Martin for “looking suspicious,” and claims self-defense under Florida’s right-wing Stand Your Ground law. Zimmerman has yet to be criminally charged for killing Martin.
The support for Martin was overwhelming. The Reverend Al Sharpton spoke on behalf of the Martin family and pledged, “to stay as long as the family asks him to stay.” Sharpton spoke passionately, evoking strong emotions from the crowd. Sharpton said protestors in London marched on the American consulate wearing “hoodies” to show their support for the Martin family and demand justice.
Sadness for the Martin family and outrage that Zimmerman has still not been charged permeated the peaceful crowd. Zimmerman’s lack of punishment is an example of racism, many said.
Sharpton called it “the American paradox” – the contradiction of racial progress in the United States. “Barack Obama, an African American, can be elected president but yet a young African American boy can be murdered and no punishment is dealt to the killer,” Sharpton said.
Rally speakers emphasized that the Stand Your Ground law was the main culprit in the death of Martin and subsequent impunity of his killer.
The National Rifle Association, the powerful lobby group of arm manufacturers and dealers, pushed the law, which allows the use lethal force to defend yourself if you “feel” that your life is threatened. Calls for the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law were made, including a boycott of weapons manufacturers to protest the law.
Martin’s murder has enraged millions of all backgrounds and races, leading many to call this the beginning of a new civil rights movement. More than 2 million signatures calling for the arrest and prosecution of Zimmerman have been collected. Rallies for Trayvon have taken place across the country.
One slogan that caught the crowd passionately came from a man with a megaphone who compared Martin to Jesus, saying “He died for us! Just like Jesus,” seeing his murder as a “wake-up call.” Numerous killings of unarmed young Black men, mostly by police officers, continue to plague the country.