Hundreds gather in SF, Oakland for Trayvon Martin rallies

Hundreds rallied in Oakland on Saturday, July 20, 2013 to protest the verdict in the Trayvon Martin shooting case and to push for civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.
July 20, 2013 7:07:23 PM PDT
One week after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, people gathered for rallies in the Bay Area and across the country to support the teen and push for change. But some say these protests are misguided.

Protesters packed the front of the Federal Building in downtown Oakland. It was filled with men and women of varying races, some wearing hoodies similar to the outfit Trayvon Martin had on the night he died. Several of the speakers were teenagers, like 13-year-old David.

"I believe that it doesn't really matter what race you are, how you look, how your hair is," David said. "You just need to be yourself, but still, you need to set a good example for your people and for your family so that you can still walk out on the street and feel like you're safe."

The event in Oakland was one of a hundred so-called "Justice for Trayvon" rallies across the nation organized by civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton. Protesters want the federal government to do what George Zimmerman's Florida jury did not.

"We cannot allow this verdict on George Zimmerman to stand, we can't stop here, we have to keep going," protester Larry Everest said.

Some in the crowd were not as sympathetic when Mayor Jean Quan took the stage, heckling her. Many were angry over police tactics dealing with protesters and some African-American residents.

"Let's all honor what Barack Obama said, whether you're black or white, whether you love a young black person, or whether you're afraid of them, honor what the president said," Mayor Quan said.

Unlike recent protests, when Oakland police admit they were unprepared, and vandals went through the city smashing windows and injuring innocent people, this time there were many officers quietly watching the rally. The mayor said the city is making progress.

"I'm a mother who's also mayor, who's been working very hard to reorganize and reform the Oakland Police Department, in particular looking at the issues of racial profiling," the mayor said.

There were no arrests and no issues of vandalism at the afternoon events in Oakland. A candlelight vigil is planned for 7:30 p.m. at Lake Merritt.

In front of San Francisco's Federal Building, about a hundred people gathered peacefully. They hope the Justice Department will file criminal charges against Zimmerman.

"I heard someone say, 'we've made some strides but not much progress,' and that's really where we are," said Reverend Arnold Townsend with the Church Without Walls. "We've still got a great way to go in this country."

Hundreds of people rallied in New York where Jay-Z and Beyonce joined the movement.

In Sanford, Florida, where the shooting happened, a crowd marched through the streets while holding pictures of Trayvon.

The teen's father, Tracy Martin, spoke at a rally in Miami saying the "stand your ground" law needs to be amended.

"There has to be something in that law that says you can't start a confrontation, kill someone, and then claim you were defending yourself," he said.

Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, told a crowd in New York they've moved on from the verdict.

"Of course we're hurting," she said. "Of course we're shocked and disappointed, but that just means that we have to roll-up our sleeves and continue to fight."

One law professor says these protests are misguided.

"They have time for political correctness but they are not doing anything to serve the needs of the black community or the needs of America as a whole and, as a consequence, we are suffering," said Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain.


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