Widespread outrage has been expressed since the July 13 verdict that acquitted George Zimmerman of all state charges associated with the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of Martin. The 17-year-old Martin was unarmed and returning to a residence where he was staying after what was supposed to have been a quick trip to a neighborhood store. Martin encountered Zimmerman and was shot one time in the heart. Zimmerman, who was 28 years of age at the time of the shooting, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense and was in fear for his life. The six-member all female jury agreed with Zimmerman’s account and acquitted him on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
“(The verdict) is a wake up call to us all,” said civil rights attorney and director of the Community Justice Project, . “As a civil rights attorney who knows the law, I was shocked at the verdict.”
Levy-Pounds said justice will only come if the people who are outraged by the verdict remain vigilant.
“A lot of us will leave a rally like this, go home, turn on the TV and act like nothing happened,” said Levy-Pounds. “It’s time to say enough is enough. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. We need to refuse to be refused.”
The rally was co-billed as a rally for Martin and also for Terrence Franklin, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police on May 10. Franklin was accused of burglary and during his arrest officers claim he disarmed an officer and that they shot him in self-defense. Many community activists dispute the officers’ account and are calling for an independent investigation into the shooting.
“If we don’t demand the truth we won’t get the truth. If we don’t demand justice, we won’t get justice,” said Levy-Pounds, speaking to a crowd that completely filled the mall outside of the Hennepin County Justice Center and Minneapolis City Hall.
“We’re here for justice, not only for Trayvon and Terrence, but for all youth of color endangered on a daily basis,” said Raees Romero, one of the event organizers. “We want to stop racial profiling and (we want) an end to the school to prison pipeline that exist.”
The rally organizers, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), focused on three demands; having the U.S. Department of Justice charge Zimmerman with the violation of Martin’s civil rights, the demand to have Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman file charges against the police officer believed to have shot Franklin and an end to the criminalizing of youth of color.
In addition to those three demands, activist Al Flowers called for an investigation into the hanging of 9-year-old Michael Sullivan. The Minneapolis police have called Sullivan’s death “suspicious,” but it has yet to be classified as a homicide.
Ilham Omar was moved to tears as she spoke to the multiracial crowd that gathered.
“I saw a couple of little kids – babies – who held a sign that said, ‘Am I next,’” said Omar. “That sign tore up my heart.”
Omar said those in the crowd need to turn their emotions into action.
“I want you to be angry, but I want you to turn that anger into something positive,” said Omar, the mother of a 7-year-old child. “We need to get organized. We need to infiltrate the system.
Following the rally the nearly 3,000 gathered took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis in a peaceful march. Several streets were forced to be closed off, and traffic had to be diverted.