“Hoodies up! Targets up! Fists raised! We’re standing up! The whole damn system is guilty!” This was chanted by dozens of angry protesters representing various grassroots organizations who rallied in Times Square to commemorate the second anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teen from Florida who was gunned down by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in February 2012. The acquittal of Zimmerman from all charges in July of last year continues to create an uneasiness among many people across the nation.
“We come right here to the center of Times Square, a place wealth and culture is celebrated which is built in a society where millions of youths are walking around with a target on their back,” said Noche Díaz, a rally organizer from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. “The acquittal of Zimmerman tells us that not only is it not enough for police to get away with murdering our youths and walk free, but anyone who said they felt threatened can gun them down,” he added.
Díaz and other protesters believe that even after two years after Martin’s death, Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law continues to add more fuel to the fire.
The “Hoodies Up” demonstration came two weeks after a Jacksonville, Fla., jury convicted Michael Dunn on three attempted second-degree murder charges for shooting into an SUV of four Black teenagers after arguing with Jordan Davis, 17, an African-American teen, at a gas station in 2012.
This was followed by an argument over loud music that was coming from the car occupied by Davis and his friends. However, jurors didn’t find Dunn guilty of killing Davis. Protesters believed it was a repeat of Martin’s verdict.
“We can’t accept this,” said Díaz. “This is an acceleration of a slow genocide. People have to front the reality, and we have to put an end to it.”
In memory of the shooting that made Martin a household name, there were two other protests in the city: one at the Adam Clayton Powell State Building and one at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem, where protesters voiced their concerns over the gruesome murders of youths of color.
“This second anniversary of Trayvon and the recent verdict in Jordan’s case, including the killings of our own Ramarley Graham, underscores how sharp the issue is in our country,” said Will Reese, a community activist and member of the New York Revolution Club.
“We need a revolution,” he added. “People need to start standing up and call it for what it is. This is an important beginning, and we have to push this forward.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network organized a major rally against “Stand Your Ground” laws on March 10, marching from the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center to the State Capitol. Martin’s and Davis’ parents attended the rally.