Zimmerman verdict draws protests in Raleigh, Durham

jshaffer@newsobserver.comJuly 14, 2013 

— About 100 people rallied in downtown Raleigh Sunday to protest the not-guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case, calling George Zimmerman’s acquittal in Florida new evidence of a nationwide war on black youth.

The protesters in Moore Square described a broken justice system that has long turned its back on young crime victims, comparing Martin’s slaying to the killing of Emmett Till in 1955 – a Mississippi case that helped spark the civil rights movement when its white defendants were set free. A Florida jury on Saturday voted against possible verdicts of second-degree murder and manslaughter in a case where attorneys for Zimmerman argued that he acted in self-defense.

“This is not new for black people in this country,” said Ajamu Dillahunt, a leader with rally organizers Black Workers for Justice. “Every year since 1955, black men, freedom fighters and others have been gunned down by the police, the paramilitary and vigilantes.”

The crowd chanted “Guilty” and carried signs with slogans such as “Stop the War on Black America” and “Stand Your Ground Against Racism and Injustice.” White speakers at the rally talked about the responsibility they feel to take the message to white neighborhoods, and others wore T shirts with messages in Spanish: “No Nas Quedaremos Callados,” or “We will not be silent.”

They clapped along to a djembe drumbeat and sang “Ella’s Song,” which was made popular by Sweet Honey in the Rock and includes the lyric, “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons.”

Speakers referenced cases in the Triangle they said bear similarities to Martin’s killing, particularly that of Carlos Riley Jr., who is accused of shooting a Durham police officer in a crime supporters say he did not commit. A second rally was organized in Durham Sunday evening. Protesters at the Raleigh event also cited the death of Shon McClain, who died after an altercation with a guard in the Wake County jail.

Calla Wright of Raleigh spoke of the fear she feels as a mother of two teen boys.

“If we are our brothers’ keeper, we as parents must be concerned about the injustice,” she said.

“It could happen to me any day,” said her son Moses, 14.

Dillahunt encouraged supporters to attend a Moral Monday event at the Legislature, adding their objections to the verdict to the weekly protest. Monday’s protest is scheduled to focus on women’s rights, and Dillahunt suggested adding a justice for Zimmerman theme.

“He walked away without even a ticket for jaywalking,” Dillahunt said. “Nothing at all.”

Shaffer: (919) 829-4818

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