Walking to See Justice and to End Racial Profiling

Demonstrators walk through downtown Los Angeles calling on the federal government to bring charges against George Zimmerman. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman
Demonstrators walk through downtown Los Angeles calling on the federal government to bring charges against George Zimmerman. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

LOS ANGELES-Emotions are still running high. A week after the verdict came down from the George Zimmerman criminal trial in which the neighborhood watch volunteer was found not guilty of committing second-degree murder or manslaughter in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by an all-women jury, those emotions have gone to another level.

Many people around the country felt Zimmerman profiled, stalked and shot and killed Martin without justification. That sentiment has been echoed by millions of individuals calling for Zimmerman to be legally held accountable since Martin’s death in 2012.

Since Zimmerman’s acquittal late Saturday night by a mostly all-white jury panel, voices screaming out that an injustice has been done to the memory of Martin and his parents, has his hit fever-pitch.

The historical context of racial profiling of young African American men has been a taboo to talk about to a large segment of America, either by ignorance or by choice. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke out on the topic during the NAACP national convention this year.

President Barack Obama shocked everybody by weighing on the subject extensively during a Friday daily White House press briefing.

By flexing his presidential muscle to weigh in on a topic and the Zimmerman trial that has brought out raw emotions on the subject of race, President Obama put more onus on the country as a whole to have a real and frank discussion about where are we really at as a nation when it comes to race relations.

President Obama, during what is hailed now as a historic speech on race, added some clarity to the complexity of understanding a judicial system that is disappropriately represented by African Americans. That may have further fueled the intensity for Zimmerman to be charged federally, which demonstrators in at least 100 cities this weekend is calling for.

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Maisah Howard lets her voice be known about justice for Trayvon Martin. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

Beyonce and Jay-Z showed their support, attending a rally in New York where Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, spoke. The rallies, which saw big turnouts in Miami and Chicago, was sponsored in large part by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. The atmosphere for the rally held in Los Angeles was enthusiastic and was fed by good energy for the most part.

A mixed crowd of people from all ethnic backgrounds braved the early morning rollout of shouting, “No justice, no peace,” to show their support for the cause and to let their voices be heard about the perceived travesty surrounding the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.

Maisah Howard, a mother of four children, including three sons, said she came out to the rally in Los Angeles because she feels the time to do something is now.

“We need change in our communities, we need to get involved, we need to be active, we need to be engaged,” said …… “We see what happened to Trayvon Martin is happening to other young men all over this county…Jordan Davis. We have others like Oscar Grant. It is unnecessary violence against our African American males.”

In regards to the verdict, Howard was simply flabbergasted. Howard said she couldn’t comprehend the not guilty verdict that was handed down.

“I was extremely disappointed with the verdict,” Howard said. “I felt as many of us felt that had the tables been turned, that if Trayvon had been the aggressor and been the one with the gun and shooting a white Peruvian, he would have been arrested that night. He would had been jailed until his hearing.

“There was no degree of empathy as indicated by juror B37. She didn’t identify with him. She felt everyone that came in to speak on Zimmerman’s behalf…they were believable. They were believable because they were white, they were educated and they were speaking in a manner in which she understood, she could relate to. She couldn’t relate to the people speaking on behalf of Trayvon.”

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Howard did find a little bit of comfort from President Obama’s remarks around the case, whom she said came across as being very genuine in his thoughts.

“It was so important,” Howard said. “He was so real. I appreciated it. I am very grateful he came out to explain to people in general because if it never happened to them they can’t relate. I am a black woman, and I’ve been followed in stores. It happens to all of us.”

Jerry and June Caldwell, a middle-aged couple from Santa Monica, showed up to the rally to offer their support of justice at the rally in downtown Los Angeles.

“My wife and I came out here together,” Jerry Caldwell said. “To me, its just a small gesture that I can do. I feel powerless. I look at the story of Trayvon and I look around my neigborhood and it’s about a half-dozen kids I know personally that I watch grow up to be good young men, good students…black kids. They’re my friends.

“They’re part of my extended family, my neighborhood, my community. We’ve lost a couple of them to gun violence in recent years, and it’s heartbreaking. And to see this Zimmerman guy get off…the thought of him getting his gun back is maddening. I don’t know what to say. Zimmerman could have stayed in his car.”

 

2 thoughts on “Walking to See Justice and to End Racial Profiling

  1. Thank you for this article about this inspiring rally. Thank you for interviewing my husband, Jerry Caldwell. This issue is so close to our hearts, and we were surprised that there was any question by some folks that being white this would be so important to us. I was stalked and held at gunpoint when I was Trayvon’s age and told by a family member I brought it on myself because of what I was wearing. Racial profiling is real and is the responsibility of all of us to fix. Furthermore street gun violence and profiling based on someone’s race, gender, orientation or clothing is an issue to bring us together and recognize our common goal of justice and keeping all our citizens safe from this happening ever again.

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