The first protests in the name of Trayvon Martin were organized last year to secure the arrest of George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s killer. Today, Zimmerman is free and those who demonstrate ask now as they did then: Where’s the justice? The frustration with feeling unheard continues today as it did in 2012 when I covered a rally in downtown, Los Angeles. From my story then (Daily News, April, 2012). Photos by Andy Holzman:
The signs the marchers held as they rallied in downtown featured the faces of those they say have been betrayed by justice:
For the hundreds of people who gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, the rally and march they held was not only for Martin, a 17-year-old who was shot two months ago in Florida by a neighborhood watch captain who has not been arrested, but also to cast a spotlight on many others whose deaths, they say, have become human rights issues.
“This is not just a march, this is a movement,” said Zsanae Davis, an organizer of the Million Hoodie March.
“We’re here for all the Trayvons. Our voices matter.”
Davis and others said Monday’s march, smaller than one held two weeks ago, was organized to continue the national debate that Martin’s death has sparked.
Every city, every state, every race has experienced a Trayvon Martin story, Davis said.
The marchers planned to head to City Hall, where they would hand over a box filled with more than 700 letters signed by citizens to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking him to launch a federal investigation into Martin’s case, among others.
The march Monday was planned to send a message to a Florida grand jury that was expected to convene today to determine whether to charge 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Martin.
Instead, State Attorney General Angela Corey decided not to use a grand jury, but rather to make the decision on charges herself.
Even under the late afternoon heat, many marchers wore hoodies to symbolize their solidarity with Martin and his family.
The teen was wearing a hooded jacket the night he was shot.
“I think that guns and racism and the laws that protect those who carry guns are at play,” said Mikal Kamil of Occupy Los Angeles.
“We’re hoping that in the process of finding justice, his story doesn’t get lost.”
Martin’s death has raised debates on everything from racial profiling to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury.
But Kamil and others said the rally also was to encourage the arrest of Zimmerman.
Martin left his father’s fiancee’s home in Sanford to get a snack at a nearby convenience store. As he was returning home with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea, there was some sort of confrontation between him and Zimmerman. The teen was shot and died of his wounds.
Sanford police questioned Zimmerman and released him without charges.
Zimmerman has said he killed Martin in self-defense after the teen punched him and slammed his head on the sidewalk, according to published reports and the Sanford Police Department. Those statements have also been debated. Although surveillance video shows a red mark on Zimmerman’s head, 911 recordings reveal a voice crying out for help that many say was Martin’s.
Martin’s family and friends said Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, called 911 to report Martin, simply because he was black. Zimmerman told the dispatcher he was following the teen.
“OK. We don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher is heard saying on the released 911 calls.
At the rally, held at Pershing Square, many protesters agreed that
Martin’s case was symbolic of laws that need to be re-examined.
“Basically, this is happening all over the world,” said Rochelle Rabb, who wore a shirt that featured Martin’s face.
Marchers also held signs with the image of Kendric McDade, a 19-year-old who was shot to death by Pasadena police last month when police responded to a 911 caller who lied and told dispatchers two men had robbed him at gunpoint. McDade was later found to be unarmed.
And they raised signs in honor of Mitrice Richardson, a 24-year-old woman arrested in Malibu and later released by the Lost Hills/Malibu station in the middle of the night without her car, purse or cellphone. Her remains were found in a ravine 11 months later.
“Look around and see how diverse this group is,” agreed Brian Seligman, a 41-year-old U.S. Marine veteran who donned his fatigues and held up a sign for Chamberlain, a U.S. Marine veteran, who was Tasered and shot twice by police five months ago in White Plains, N.Y.
Chamberlain had accidentally triggered his medical alert pendant, which is why police responded to his home. Police said Chamberlain attacked them with a hatchet and knife, but the case is being reexamined.
Seligman drove in from Simi Valley to be a part of the event.
“We’re here because it’s not just one case. It’s a systematic problem.”