The E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse in the District of Columbia is not the typical stage for a large protest and rally in the nation’s capital. That changed Saturday afternoon as hundreds assembled on the front steps of the courthouse to voice their discontent over George Zimmerman’s acquittal. There was also overwhelming support for the Department of Justice to review the case for possible civil rights violations.
The rally came as Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network called upon prominent members of the clergy in 100 cities across the country to raise a collective voice for justice for Trayvon.
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin has sparked much debate about race and the fairness of the justice system when race and stereotypes are factors. Many who attended the rally believed race and stereotypes played an integral part of Zimmerman’s actions and thought process the night he shot and killed Trayvon.
During Zimmerman’s initial call to police that night, he called Trayvon “suspicious,” and said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or is on drugs or something.”
Jan Butler, of Washington D.C., reacted to Zimmerman’s comments. “[When] you have a young, dead, unarmed child,” said Butler, “not doing anything visually that [Zimmerman] could discern was a crime, and for [him] to come to two and three assumptions on a telephone call … you have already formed an opinion of someone you don’t even know, haven’t even met, and just laid eyes on.”
Butler said that it is difficult to overlook much of the discussion about race because this country started on the backs of slaves and prospered with negative race relations.
“Everything that certain people don’t want you to talk about now is a product of what blacks were forced to deal with just 60 or 100 years ago. Everything was about race in America because you were prohibited and proscribed from doing things, and participating in things, because of your race … It was a crime to educate a black person,” she explained.
Calls for a Justice Department review came from nearly every speaker. The clear sentiment from those who attended the rally was that Trayvon had a constitutional right to be where he was the night he was killed.
“Why is everybody upset,” asked radio talkshow host Joe Madison as he addressed the crowd, “because 17-year-old Trayvon Martin had a right to be in that complex.
“Just like Vivian Malone had a right to walk through that door at the University of Alabama and apply for admissions. Just like Ernest Green and the Little Rock Nine had a right to walk through that school door at Central high school; just like Emmett Till had a right to be in Money, Mississippi; just like Medgar Evers had a right to be in his driveway.”
“Zimmerman became the judge, the jury and the executioner,” Madison continued. “What has happened is that we have felt pain. Pain leads to passion, but your passion must lead to a purpose. The purpose for being here today is to make sure that the Trayvon Martin case is not a moment, it’s a movement.”
This article represents original reporting by the author. You may contact Don and follow him on Twitter @dccityexaminer.