Florida teen’s death sparks community gathering to demand justice
By Anthony King | Downtown News
Hundreds of community members gathered in Balboa Park at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 26 for a rally to support the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old teenager killed in Sanford, Fla. on February 26. Attendees at the San Diego rally then marched along Park Boulevard into downtown, ending at the Department of Justice building at 880 Front St. with a candlelight vigil held for Martin.
Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in the gated community where Zimmerman is a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman has not been arrested for the killing, citing self-defense. Martin, who was unarmed, was returning to his girlfriend’s family home after a trip to a convenience store, where he purchased a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are now investigating the incident, after Sanford city commission members voted “no confidence” in regards to Sanford Police Department Chief Bill Lee, who initially oversaw the incident. Lee announced he temporarily stepped down from his position on March 22.
Attendees at the San Diego rally demanded Zimmerman’s arrest, saying they believed the shooting to be racially motivated. Marchers held signs that read, “Justice for Trayvon Martin,” “We demand justice” and “I am Trayvon.”
San Diego residents Abel Macias, Mario Lewis and Kuttin Kandi organized the event as part of the San Diego Justice for Trayvon Martin Coalition.
Norma Chavez-Peterson, community engagement and organizing director of the San Diego & Imperial Counties American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spoke at the event, urging the crowd to “not just be angry,” but to take action by registering to vote.
“We need to harness our righteous anger into action. Organize. Get involved. Vote. Now is the time to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and use strategic methods to bring sustainable change to our nation,” she said.
“We were grateful to participate in Monday’s rally to demand justice for Trayvon Martin,” Chavez-Peterson said. “The ACLU is demanding a fair, thorough [and] unbiased investigation of Trayvon’s murder. We find it troubling that it took national outcry, for over a month, to get the authorities to pay attention.”
Saying the March 26 rally was the “largest gathering of young African-American people [in] San Diego that I have ever witnessed,” Chavez-Peterson addressed the issue of race in the Martin shooting.
“It mattered that George Zimmerman saw a young black man in his neighborhood and then called police to say he saw someone ‘suspicious.’ Too often, being young and black is enough to be stopped by police,” she said.
“America has a race problem. It is profoundly sad that it takes a shooting death to get Americans to talk about it or acknowledge it.”
Another speaker at the rally was Nation of Islam Minister Hugh Muhammad. Urging people to work together, Muhammad also said there was a “great problem of race relations” in the United States.
“We do not have to be divided by labels. We do not have to be divided by color. We don’t have to be divided by ethnic background,” Muhammad said at the rally. “Pay attention to truth, not color. I’m not here because it is a black or brown person. I’m here because it’s an injustice.”