People furious with George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict protested on both sides of Tampa Bay Sunday.
About fifty activists chanted and held signs on the four corners of a busy South St. Petersburg intersection early in the afternoon.
And a few hours later nearly 200 marched from downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to the Federal Courthouse and back.
Despite the 90 degree heat, many in the long line of marchers in Tampa are wearing hooded sweatshirts like the one Trayvon Martin wore the night he was shot. Some are carrying hand-drawn posters saying things like “Justice 4 Trayvon” and “My son is Trayvon.”
note: this report won a Griot Drum award for Best Multimedia News Story
Marisol Marquez helped organize Sunday’s rally in Tampa as part of the Coalition for Justice for Trayvon Martin. She had been demonstrating in Sanford, Florida when the verdict was announced on Saturday.
“When he was convicted of nothing, I was like this is completely terrible. He committed second-degree murder, which is what he should have gotten. And he didn’t. It’s embarrassing to know that someone like [George] Zimmerman can go into a community, racially target and stalk and then murder a young 17-year-old boy who was just getting iced tea and Skittles. It’s embarrassing to know that after he did that, he gets to walk away, wash his hands of it and act like it never happened. Well, it happened and we’re here to say that we’re tired of it and we will not stop until there’s justice for us.”
Marquez says the Zimmerman verdict sends a frightening message that killing is okay.
“They targeted my parents for being Mexican. They knew where we lived: we lived in the Mexican neighborhood. So I knew early on that it was something to be scared of. People like Zimmerman are something that you fear, that you’re terrified of because you know they exist. And look, we saw him walk away completely free. Nothing was done to him. And I’m ashamed to say that I live in a country where someone like Zimmerman can commit straight-up murder with no repercussion.”
Marquez and other organizers speak to the crowd through a bullhorn as passing cars honk in support. Eight police cars line the street. One of the last speakers, Life Malcolm says prayer vigils and marches aren’t enough to end violence committed against the black community.
“A life is worth a life. If we have to make it clear that if one of us is killed then a life is required. You can’t just get off scott free.”
Later Malcolm clarifies that he was referring to people being able to defend themselves against violence.
It’s several blocks from the park on the waterfront to the federal courthouse. The demonstrators march through streets, not along sidewalks, climb the courthouse steps and continue chanting. At the edge of the crowd, Temple Terrace resident Linda Davis says she cried when she heard the not-guilty verdict.
“I’m 66 years old and this is the first time in my life I’ve ever been to a protest or a rally. Ever. Because a child is dead. Because of our gun laws. Because of the attitudes of people. People need to understand the cultures of other people; how other people think. We need to be more open minded.”
Guns and Florida’s lax gun laws are also a concern for St. Petersburg resident James Lamont. Several hours before the Tampa rally, he is part of a smaller gathering in an economically depressed section of South St. Pete.
“My shirt features a drawing of a pistol that’s been broken in half. I think it’s quite obvious why it’s appropriate for today. It’s just a general anti-violence t-shirt, but it fits this case perfectly.”
Lamont stands on one corner of 18th Avenue South and Martin Luther King Street, but all four corners of the intersection have sign-waving demonstrators. Some of them hold a series of posters that spell out “We can’t peacefully watch our children die,” a response to demands by some officials for peaceful protests.
This rally is organized by the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement and Chimurenga Waller is its secretary.
“That’s the historical trend of this country, Africans being murdered by ordinary mercenaries, by the police. That’s why this system works. That’s why George Zimmerman felt like he could do what he did and get away with it. And he was correct. Hopefully this will serve as a lesson to us to get organized because we don’t want to wait ’til another Trayvon Martin happens, we want to get organized before that happens.”
The NAACP is proposing that the Department of Justice investigate whether George Zimmerman violated Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. The secretary general of the African People’s Socialist Party, Gaida Kambon says that’s not good enough.
“It’s just ludicrous; it’s insanity when we try the same things and we get the same results. That’s insanity. It’s just another distraction. The community wants real solutions.”
But back at the rally in Tampa, a sales administrator who would only give her name as Dominica disagrees. She thinks there could be some solutions through the courts.
“I know that they’re reviewing it — the case — some more to do some sort of civil suit. But all we can do is come together as a people and let them know that this is not a good thing and it shouldn’t happen any more.”
The rallies for justice and protests against the verdict continue. The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement is organizing a caravan to the courthouse in Sanford to rally Monday.
Check out more photos from Tampa rally
Check out more photos from St. Pete rally
We can’t peacefully watch our children die – St Pete rally for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
Trayvon Martin rally in St. Pete FL – Gaida Kambon: WMNF News
St Petersburg, FL rally for Trayvon Martin – Chimurenga Waller: WMNF News
Stephanie Midler interview at St Pete rally for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
Intvw with Maria Agosto at Justice for Trayvon Martin rally in St Pete FL: WMNF News
Intvw with James Lamont at St Pete FL rally for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
St Pete FL chanting for reparations and justice for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
Intvw with Marisol Marquez at Tampa Trayvon Martin rally: WMNF News
8 police cars at Tampa rally for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
Linda Davis attends her first rally – it’s for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
Justice for Trayvon Martin rally Tampa speeches: WMNF News
Life calls for self defense at Tampa rally for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
USF student Shay Johnson at Justice for Trayvon Martin rally in Tampa: WMNF News
Tampa chanting for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
Legal assistant Kereen Howard at Tampa rally for Trayvon Martin: WMNF News
Justice chant for Trayvon Martin at federal courthouse Tampa: WMNF News