In D.C., large rally for Trayvon Martin seeks justice and a lasting focus on race
WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 people rallied for Trayvon Martin in Washington's Freedom Plaza on Saturday afternoon, demanding justice in the Florida teen's death and calling for renewed attention to racial issues in America.
"One good thing about this is it will start to open up people's eyes. This will show that certain changes need to be made," said Cynthia Turner, 47, who grew up in Sanford, where 17-year-old Trayvon was killed Feb. 26. As a teen herself, she said, she was sexually assaulted but the police did nothing.
"They said, 'What white man would want a black girl?' "
"That could have been me," said Turner, who now lives in Upper Marlboro, Md. "I could have been buried. But I made it through. Whatever I can do now, I'm going to do."
The man who shot Trayvon, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, claims he did so in self-defense, according to police. He has not been arrested or charged, fueling outrage across the country. Zimmerman, 28, is a white Hispanic and his family says he is not racist.
But the case has provoked strong feelings about race and legal justice as well as questions about Florida's "stand your ground" law that allows people to use deadly force in cases of self-defense when they believe their life is at risk. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense.
Many in Saturday's crowd wore hoodies, like Trayvon did on the night he was killed, and carried what he carried from a 7-Eleven: Skittles and Arizona iced tea. But they were urged to move beyond symbols and use the death as an opportunity to make a difference.
Florida state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, promised the crowd justice in the killing.
"We have to think about where do we go from here," Williams said. "It's more than rallying for justice in Sanford because justice will be served. I promise you on behalf of the Florida state House of Representatives, justice will served. But we have look beyond that. We have to think about this on Election Day. When you get tired and you don't feel like going to vote, go vote for Trayvon."
"I have kids at home and I'm tired of racism," said Sean Suggs, 26, a bank teller who lives in Fairfax, Va. "I want this to be more than just today. I want this to go for months, years.
Story and photos by Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times.