NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A "Hoodies Up" march and rally of nearly 1,000 filled the streets of New Haven Saturday calling for justice for Trayvon Martin, and an end to racial profiling.
The march was held in solidarity with the national march in Sanford, Florida where neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman tragically ended 17-year old Trayvon Martin's life. Participants called for Zimmerman's arrest and spoke in opposition to the "Stand Your Ground" gun laws recently passed in a dozen states.
Initiated by the Black Students Alliance at Yale, and joined by students from Southern Connecticut State University, local NAACP branches, civil rights activists, youth and community organizations, union members, and elected officials, the New Haven march sent a strong message of unity.
"I am so excited by the Black students at Yale," said Rev. Scott Marks to cheers. "The university wants the students to stay on campus but they are taking part in this community. And I am so excited that white Yale students have come with them," he added, welcoming the new activism by youth.
The youngest speaker, six years old, said he didn't see why wearing a hoodie should get anyone shot. He led a chant, "Justice for Trayvon."
Activists of all generations gathered at 3 pm in front of the closed youth center, the Dixwell Community House, where they were asked to sign in with the name and ward number, for follow-up on election day. Voter registration cards were also on hand.
They then marched in the street with police escort behind the banner of the New Elm City Dream youth group to the New Haven Green, ending on the steps of City Hall.
Barbara Fair, leader of My Brother's Keeper, welcomed the crowd and emphasized that one goal of the day was to build support for Connecticut Senate Bill 364 which aims to strengthen legislation passed in 1999 requiring police departments in all municipalities to compile annual data on incidents of racial profiling. Last year only 27 of 92 municipal police departments filed reports.
State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield explained that SB 364 creates a common form that all police departments must use for reporting on racial profiling. "When this bill comes up for hearing, you need to be there!" he exclaimed.
Herman Zuniga, president of East Haven Immigrants United, which formed in the wake of profiling and harassment of Latino immigrants by the East Haven police now under investigation by the federal Department of Justice, aroused everyone when he declared that the struggles of Latinos and African Americans for equal rights are one.
Kathleen Cleaver, a lecturer at Yale Law School and former leader of the Black Panther Party, likened the impact of the murder of Trayvon Martin to the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 in Mississippi, which helped to spark the civil rights movement of the 1960's.
African American and Latino youth, targeted by the policies of the extreme Right Wing, suffering high unemployment and disproportional rates of incarceration, are now stepping forward to become engaged in the political process and demand an end to institutionalized racism.
The New Haven march and similar marches and rallies held in Hartford and Bridgeport, together with actions on campuses and communities across the nation, signal an awakened anti-racist unity by youth and all generations.
Photo:PW/ Art Perlo