A Nation in protest

Thousands flood downtown Miami — Trayvon’s dad says “our kids matter too”

D. Kevin McNeir | 7/25/2013, 12:04 p.m. | Updated on 7/25/2013, 12:14 p.m.
It’s been more than a week since a Florida court ruled in favor of the defense and made George Zimmerman ...

— It’s been more than a week since a Florida court ruled in favor of the defense and made George Zimmerman a free man. He faced a lengthy jail sentence had he been found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But while the verdict has been rendered, thousands of U.S. citizens continue to voice their disgruntlement and frustration with our justice system by taking to the streets in mostly peaceful protests.

Here in Miami, an estimated crowd of 1,100 participated in a “Justice for Trayvon” rally and prayer vigil on the steps of the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse last Saturday. The rally was one of close to 100 held in urban cities across the country facilitated by the National Action Network [NAN]. The Rev. Victor T. Curry, NAN’s South Florida president, said, “We will no longer stand idly by while another one of our children is shot dead in the streets.”

“We have prayed today, we have protested today and next week we will begin to plan,” he said. “We salute the courage of our president, Barack Obama, for taking a stand in support of Trayvon Martin and for helping the world understand the unique, Black experience in America. We also salute the courage of those like Stevie Wonder, Mary Mary and other entertainers who say they won’t perform in Florida until the laws are changed. As for economic boycotts, if Blacks are going to engage in such acts of civil disobedience, you can be sure that we will be part of it.”

Next stop for protesters: Tallahassee

State Representative Cynthia Stafford says it will take the entire community working together to bring about effective change.

“We’ve been led by prayer today and we’ll need it if we are going to change the landscape of this country,” she said. “Now we must turn our attention to Tallahassee and make the Legislature understand that Black boys are not targets but citizens.”

Stafford added that she was disappointed that none of Miami’s high-powered, influential athletes showed up for the rally.

“Tweets from sports figures and entertainers are nice but they don’t bring about significant change,” she said. “We need them with us as we protest in the streets. As for the verdict, we are disappointed but it just shows that there is more work to be done. We need to follow the example of Tracy [Martin] and Sybrina [Fulton] who have handled themselves with true dignity.”

Martin spoke to the crowd and then to reporters about his family’s reactions to the verdict, the protests that have followed and the recent comments of President Obama.

“We are determined to fight for the legacy of our son and of all our sons,” Martin said. “The crowd today shows the love and support that we have from the people of Miami. We have to show America that our [Black] children are just as important as whites. As for the president’s remarks, his words gave our family great strength and touched our hearts. We realize that our family has become a conduit for people to talk about race in America — this country has some difficult issues to face.”

Slow process for change predicted

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, clearly emotional, urged Blacks to be patient in their quest for justice as federal officials continue to investigate the Martin case.

“It’s going to take the U.S. Justice Department a long time to peel back the onion skins of what really happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin,” she said. "What we cannot allow is for our Black boys to continue being attacked, beaten, arrested and even killed because of stereotypes — just for being plain old Black.”

As the crowd dispersed, Ronald Fulton, the uncle of Trayvon Martin, had this to say: “This is a magnificent day and our family is encouraged because of the continued support of Americans — Black and white. I believe people are tired of injustice and are prepared to fight for change. But that change must first begin in one’s home before it can be taken to our cities, states and nation’s Capitol.”