Thousands Protest Lack of Justice for Trayvon Martin

Barrington M. Salmon | 3/28/2012, 9:41 a.m.

Freedom Plaza Rally First of Many in the District of Columbia

Perhaps as many as 2,000 people packed a closed-off section of Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest to demonstrate their revulsion and outrage at the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The throng which took part in Saturday's Washington DC Rally for Justice, spilled down the steps of the John A. Wilson Building and clogged a city block and large sections of Freedom Plaza adjoining city hall.

Latoya Smith, 36, brought her two sons, Kelis, 11, and Dante, 6, with her to the rally, which took place under overcast skies and intermittent drizzle.

"When I heard what happened to Trayvon it hit home," said Smith who lives in Northeast. "I've been asking why it happened, what was the story and it's getting worse and worse as you find out more."

Bishop Michael Kelsey of New Samaritan Baptist Church in Northeast, said indignation brought him to the March 24 rally.

"My outrage in terms of injustice brought me out here," said the 56-year-old Glenn Dale, Md., resident. "I wanted to be in Florida but could not. The turnout is incredible considering the weather and I'm really impressed with the range of age groups."

Kelsey said education and a greater willingness by people of all races and ethnicities to learn and appreciate other people's cultures are keys to change.

Taking to the Streets

A phalanx of protestors stood on the steps of the Wilson Building shoulder-to-shoulder holding hands with heads bowed before the afternoon event started. Most sported hoodies and held packs of Skittles and cans of Arizona Iced Tea, the items Trayvon had gone to the store to purchase. Others, with arms fully extended before them, held fliers with a photograph of Trayvon wearing a grey hoodie.

Among the signs held aloft: "I don't apologize for my blackness or your fear", "Hoodie, Skittles, tea, black - Guess I'm next," and "Skittles is not a weapon." One young white woman held a large poster above her head emblazoned with the words, "Trayvon Martin is my son too."

The crowd's energy ratcheted up several levels when a large contingent of demonstrators marched up shortly after speakers began addressing the crowd and converged across from the Wilson Building.

"We are ..." the new arrivals chanted with a throaty roar.

"... Trayvon!" their compatriots across the street shouted back. Each side repeated this call and response for several minutes before the second group hollered, "Skittles, ice tea are not suspicious to me!" and then both sides picked up the chant.

Trayvon, an honor roll student, was shot and killed on Sunday, February 26 while returning home from a convenience store in Sanford, Fla. He was staying with his father in a gated community that was being patrolled by George Zimmerman, a self-styled community defender. Zimmerman, 28, admits shooting the high school junior, who was spending time with his father after being suspended from school for tardiness.

Zimmerman told a police dispatcher that the young man looked suspicious, he followed Trayvon despite being told not to, and during the confrontation shot him in the chest. He claimed self-defense and has not been arrested.