Sunday, April 22, 2018
Public safety

Two marches in St. Petersburg call for justice for Trayvon Martin

ST. PETERSBURG — Taurean Wong has rallied for immigration reform, protested against community violence and promoted women's rights.

But for the 28-year-old community college student, the case of Trayvon Martin has never been more important. Or more personal.

"After the shock of hearing what happened, it was fear that set in," said Wong, who lives in Brandon and also is a consultant for Community Tampa Bay. "I've been followed before. I wear hoodies. I walk down the street with candy in my pocket. I do those things all the time."

Wong was one of about 200 who marched and rallied at two events Saturday in downtown St. Petersburg in honor of Martin, the 17-year-old shot and killed in February by crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a gated Sanford community.

Police in Sanford said Zimmerman confronted and shot the hoodie-wearing black teenager, who was walking home from a store with a bag of Skittles and iced tea, after calling 911 to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood.

State and federal agencies are investigating; Zimmerman has not been charged.

The case has sparked a national debate and protests across the country, including in Tampa and other Florida cities. But Saturday's events were the first in St. Petersburg.

At the "I Am Trayvon March for Justice," hosted by the National Christian League of Councils, a large and diverse group of protesters started from a spot near the old Salvador Dalí museum. They went past the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, past Publix and past diners and shoppers along Beach Drive.

As they marched, they chanted Martin's name and called out for justice.

St. Petersburg poet Ramona Bethke, 54, wore a white T-shirt with the words "I am Trayvon's mother," scrawled on both sides. Many others had on hoodies.

"If I wasn't sitting here eating, I would have joined them," said Bob Horton, 62, who, along with his wife, Pat, and several friends, was enjoying brunch downtown at Cassis American Brasserie when the march went by.

The Hortons said they've been keeping up with news about the case.

"I think it's a good thing to protest," Pat Horton, 63, said. "I know one thing. If it were the other way around, he'd (Martin) already be in jail."

A few miles away, another group was rallying at City Hall. That effort, organized by the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, also included a march through downtown streets. Organizers said they wanted more than just Zimmerman's arrest; they said they also are calling for African people around the globe to unite and organize.

National Christian League of Councils organizer Sevell Brown said that he has been involved in civil rights for 30 years, and that the Martin case has stirred the nation in a way similar to the 1955 murder of Emmett Till that mobilized the civil rights movement.

"This injustice is so obvious that it is unconscionable," Brown said. "That's why we see this outrage that is touching St. Petersburg, Tampa, Jacksonville. … It has touched everybody."

After the march, Brown invited people to speak on a stage set up at Spa Beach Park near the Pier.

"One way or another, justice will prevail," LaShawn Crawford told the crowd.

Three years ago this week, Crawford's cousin, 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton, was killed at her home in a drive-by shooting that, like the Martin case, shocked the community. The young men accused of killing Paris were sentenced to prison last year.

Crawford told the crowd not to give up, to remain peaceful, to remain patient.

"Just as we had justice for baby Paris, we will get justice for Trayvon Martin and his family," she said.

Another Martin rally and a carwash are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Shell gas station at 1800 34th St. S. Proceeds will go to Martin's family.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

Comments
New Port Richey Woman dies in single-car crash on SR 580

New Port Richey Woman dies in single-car crash on SR 580

A 49-year-old woman died early Saturday in a single-car crash on State Road 580.Kristin Carlin, of New Port Richey, was driving in the eastbound lanes of SR 580 when she failed to round a curve and veered off the road near Charles Avenue, a Clearwate...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

The first time deputies arrested Samuel Morrissey Jr., he faced charges of possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed firearm. He plead no contest in September, and the judge gave him a break by withholding adjudication. Ten days later, the 20-...
Published: 04/21/18
Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Deputies arrested a man they said tackled a woman in February and removed her shorts before fleeing.Robert Mark Hembree Jr., 31, was arrested late Friday. He faces charges of sexual battery and petit theft.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Detectives seek man who a...
Published: 04/21/18
Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

A Pasco County man was struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run early Saturday, police said.Thomas Michael Burdeshaw, 53, who lived on Sundance Drive in Dade City, was hit about 1:45 a.m. on the 36000 block of Blanton Road, police said.Witnesses ...
Published: 04/21/18
Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

CLEARWATER ó Police are looking for a person who shot and killed a man late Friday at the Melrose on the Bay apartments on Bolesta Road. Ricardo Guzman, 32, called 911 just before midnight and told the operator he had been shot, said Lt. Randall Chan...
Published: 04/21/18
Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

TAMPA ó A motorcyclist driving north on Memorial Highway died after he crashed into a guard rail late Friday, police said."The man failed to negotiate a curve in the road and struck a guard rail," said Lt. Brett Owen. "No other vehicle was involved i...
Published: 04/21/18
Cops used dead manís finger in attempt to access his phone. Itís legal, but is it okay?

Cops used dead manís finger in attempt to access his phone. Itís legal, but is it okay?

LARGO ó Most people agree what the Largo detectives did at the funeral home was legal.What they diverge on is whether it was appropriate."I just felt so disrespected and violated," said Victoria Armstrong, whose fiance, Linus F. Phillip, was shot and...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

TAMPA ó Deputies are searching for a woman accused of blocking a special needs school bus with her car, getting out and banging and kicking on the bus door until she broke the glass.And there were four children inside, deputies said, as she shouted a...
Published: 04/20/18
St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

ST. PETERSBURG ó Officers are searching for a 20-year-old woman who they believe to be missing and who could be in danger.Kayla Brandi Boone was last seen at about 11 p.m. Thursday in the 2700 block of Fourth Street S, according to St. Petersburg pol...
Published: 04/20/18

Deputies: 19-month-old child found in New Port Richey pond has died

NEW PORT RICHEY ó The 19-month-old child that was found in a pond on Thursday afternoon has died, according to the Pasco County Sheriffís Office.The incident took place at about 12:31 p.m. Deputies and firefighters were called out to a home in the 47...
Published: 04/20/18