Revolution #264, April 1, 2012
Thousands Demand Justice for Trayvon Martin
The following is a snapshot of the March 26 protest in Sanford from a Revolution reporter. Watch for further coverage in our coming issue, #265, and here at revcom.us.
March 26, Sanford, Florida. One month after the murder of Trayvon Martin, and his killer still free, still facing no charges…
Hundreds of people gathered at Centennial Park just outside downtown Sanford and marched through the town's cobblestoned streets demanding Justice for Trayvon Martin. When the marchers reached their destination at Fort Mellon Park near the Sanford waterfront, 6,000 to 8,000 people continued a rally outside a building where the Sanford City Commission was holding a special meeting. At least 500 more people were inside at the hearing.
People at the march and rally were angry, bitter over the vicious death of a young Black male, and determined that there be justice in this case. Above all, they wanted Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, to be charged with Trayvon's death.
The demonstrators were overwhelmingly Black. Many were young – about the age of 17-year-old Trayvon when he was gunned down. Trayvon's father said that many of the faces at the rally "remind me of my son." People came from Sanford, Orlando, and other cities and towns in central Florida, and large contingents had bused in from Miami, including youth who had participated in or led walkouts at their high schools. Students who had been organizing speak-outs and other protests at Florida A&M in Tallahassee were there, as were students from Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach and other colleges in the region.
The march and rally were called by the "Empowerment Movement," a coalition of Black clergy and civil rights activists. Signs reading "not a Black and white issue, but a right and wrong issue" were distributed by some rally organizers and were prevalent throughout the day, and a banner with that message was at the front of the march. People chanted "no justice, no peace," and some took up a chant initiated by the revolutionaries, "Trayvon did not have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole system is guilty."
Many people, youth and many older people as well, wore shirts with Trayvon's picture, and chanted slogans like "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon." Countless people carried bags of Skittles and cans of Arizona Iced Tea—the "weapons" Trayvon had in his hand when he was viciously gunned down. People came with homemade signs and T-shirts, some with the lettering made of Skittles. A brother and sister, and some of Trayvon's classmates from Miami, came wearing homemade T-shirts that read "Skittles, $1.39; Arizona Iced Tea, $.99; Trayvon B. Martin's life, PRICELESS." Some people, especially youth, wore hoodies, which Trayvon was wearing when he was murdered, and carried signs reading things like "am I suspicious?" or "do I look suspicious to you?"
A crew of revolutionary communists circulated with a banner reading "17 Afghani people, Trayvon Martin, MURDERED! The System of Capitalism-Imperialism Set These Crimes in Motion," and about 3,000 copies of the RCP's statement "On the Murder of Trayvon Martin" were distributed.
The City Commission meeting was broadcast to the thousands of people in the park over widescreen TVs and loudspeakers. Besides the commission members, speakers included Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. They all denounced the killing of Trayvon and the fact that the neighborhood watch captain who shot him, George Zimmerman, remains free, while urging people to work within the very system that has kept Trayvon's murderer at large. "The whole world is watching Sanford, the whole world is watching Florida," Jesse Jackson said, before urging the crowd to start a voter registration drive to end Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which the Sanford police and Florida state officials claim is the legal justification for Zimmerman's deadly assault upon Trayvon.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's parents, also spoke. Tracy Martin said that "we're not asking for an eye for an eye. We're asking for justice, justice, justice." Sybrina Fulton poignantly spoke of her anguish over Trayvon's death and her determination to see change, saying, "I know I cannot bring my baby back. But I'm sure going to make changes so that this doesn't happen to another family."
Everyone in the crowd that a Revolution reporter spoke to was angry, frustrated, and bitter over the lack of justice, over the fact that a young man's life had ended so cruelly, and his killer remained free. Many older people, and some younger ones too, recognized this outrageous murder as a modern-day lynching, and were searching for answers for how to put an end to a seemingly endless history of unpunished crimes against Black people.
A brother and sister from Broward County in south Florida told us how they had been active in organizing high school walkouts and other protests. The young woman, a recent college graduate, said, "I just don't see how you can kill someone, and then the person can just roam free." Her brother added, "This goes way down into past history, from before we were even born until now. I really can't put into words how deeply I feel about it."
All at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford that evening, and millions more throughout the country, share a determination to win Justice for Trayvon Martin. People don't see this as an "isolated incident" but as something that happens over and over again to young Black people. That's why so many people find it "relatable," as one person put it. As the same young woman quoted above said, "We want justice. We want to be able to breathe correctly. Let the jury decide, but we want this man to be in jail."
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