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Million Hoodie marches demand justice

Published Mar 28, 2012 9:52 PM

Baltimore, March 26.
WW photo: Sharon Black

March 26 — The Million Hoodie marches calling for justice for Trayvon Martin and an end to institutionalized racism are spreading like wildfire, with protests from coast to coast.

Fueled by shared outrage that Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, has not been arrested a month after stalking and killing the African-American teenager vigilante-style in Florida, protesters are turning out in record numbers in what some are characterizing as a new Civil Rights movement.

Protests took place today across the U.S. to mark the one-month anniversary of Martin’s murder in Sanford, Fla., and to demand Zimmerman’s arrest. From New York to Los Angeles, protesters have filled the streets carrying signs with Martin’s photo. Protesters wore hooded sweatshirts like the one worn by Martin when he was killed.

One of the largest demonstrations to date took place in Sanford on March 22 just a few miles from the gated housing complex where Martin was killed. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people filled Fort Mellon Park and marched to protest the lack of an arrest after his death.

Sanford’s population is only 50,000.

Many people traveled from as far away as Memphis and Atlanta to join Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton in demanding an investigation. Another protest took place the next day in Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital. Between 600 and 1,000 people marched to one of Tampa’s busiest intersections on March 25.

Across Florida, by the hundreds and thousands, students walked out of more than 40 schools on March 23, chanting “Justice for Trayvon!” The first student walkout was at Carol City High School in Miami, where Martin was a student last year.

Occupy Sarasota activists exercised their fully restored “chalking rights” by writing the slogan “Justice for Trayvon” on sidewalks in Five Points Park. On Feb. 25, one day before Martin was killed, an Occupy Sarasota activist was arrested for writing political slogans in the park “without a permit.” The ACLU successfully challenged that ruling.

No justice! No peace!

On March 21, thousands of outraged people gathered at Union Square in New York City to protest Martin’s brutal murder. Most of the youthful crowd of Black and white people wore hoodies in honor of Martin, whose mother told those gathered that “Our son is your son” and “This is not a Black and white thing. This is a right and wrong thing.”

Organized largely through Twitter, between 5,000 to 8,000 people filled the plaza outside Philadelphia’s Amtrak station on March 23 to kick off a march through city streets starting at 7:17 p.m., the exact time Trayvon Martin was killed.

“We’re trying to bring awareness about the injustice that’s going on in Florida, the streets of Philly and other cities in America,” said rally organizer Jason Moody, 32, of #OnTheCornerstone(d), an online radio station and community organizing group. (Philadelphia Inquirer, March 24)

At Love Plaza, Rep. Ron Waters, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Black Legislative Caucus, told the crowd: “We want justice for our people, but there is no justice in the criminal justice system. … There is no reason why we occupy more prison cells than anybody else in this nation. No reason why more of us are dying. No reason why our schools are failing.”

Pam Africa, of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, addressed the crowd at a concluding rally in Love Park. Several participants of Occupy Philadelphia joined the event.

Similar to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that Zimmerman claimed gave him license to kill Martin, Pennsylvania passed a “Castle Doctrine” in 2011 under Gov. Tom Corbett — despite opposition from many who fear it would be used to mask widespread vigilantism like Zimmerman’s actions in Florida.

Baltimore’s downtown felt liberated on March 26 when thousands of people took over the streets and marched to the central headquarters of the local police department and then to City Hall. Protesters took over the City Hall balcony and filled the square, rallying until nighttime as they defied police orders to move off the building. They connected the tragedy of Trayvon Martin with local issues, including the case of a 15-year-old African-American Northwestern High School student who was beaten by a community patrol group in a wealthy community.

The march, organized by the Baltimore Southern Christian Leadership Conference, All-Peoples Congress, Occupy 4 Jobs Network and the National Action Network, grew when contingents from various schools joined the crowd. The protesters were ecstatic when they took over six blocks in front of police headquarters, when their numbers swelled to close to 10,000.

Under rainy skies in Washington, D.C., on March 24, thousands protested at Freedom Plaza in support of Trayvon Martin’s family. D.C. radio host Joe Madison from WOL 1450 called Martin’s death a modern-day version of the Emmett Till slaying. “They’ve been killing Black men since Black men landed on this continent. This isn’t just about today.” (Afro.com, March 25)

In downtown Chicago around 500 people rallied at noon on March 24. Speakers included exonerated former Illinois death row prisoner Darby Tillis and Airickca Gordon-Taylor, a relative of Emmett Till. Speakers linked Martin’s death to the harassment of Blacks by police and urged the crowd not to let the 17-year-old’s death be in vain.

Participating organizations included the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Workers World Party, the Prisoners of Conscience Committee, Progressive Labor Party, Answer Coalition and International Socialist Organization. Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. and the POCC also organized a rally on Chicago’s West Side at “the Wall” — a mural of Chairman Fred Hampton Sr., who was murdered by Chicago police in 1969.

On March 23 in Cleveland, 200 people marched from Public Square to the Cuyahoga County Justice Center for a rally called by the Oppressed Peoples Nation. Around 75 people, mostly youth, came out the next day. Both actions were organized through Twitter.

Weekly rallies are being planned for every Saturday until Zimmerman is arrested and convicted.

A March 26 rally was called on short notice by students from the Atlanta University Center, which is a complex of historically Black colleges and universities. Seven thousand people wearing hoodies and gathering at the State Capitol building closed the road in front of the capitol and filled the block between the two cross-streets.

More than 1,000 people demonstrated at the Liberty Pole in downtown ­Rochester, N.Y., an action that drew support from members of Occupy Rochester. They called for justice for Trayvon Martin and to prevent this from happening in Rochester. City Councilmembers Adam McFadden and Ruth Scott, both African Americans, expressed hope that this terrible crime will draw the Rochester community together.

Over a hundred marched from the ­Albany, N.Y., City Court past the Governor’s Mansion and City Hall before a rally on March 24. In Cambridge, Mass., 800 people came out to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin on March 22 in a rally organized by the Harvard Black Student Association.

Making the connections

At Sunday services at the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit on March 25, the Rev. Charles C. Adams gave his sermon in a hoodie. He approached the pulpit with a can of iced tea and a package of Skittles in hand. The 10,000-member church is one of many organizations standing up across the U.S. to express outrage over Martin’s death. On March 26 thousands rallied in downtown Detroit.

On March 22, dozens of community members from the African-American community and allies in Milwaukee held a candlelight vigil at the Dr. King Community Center Park.

This protest was sponsored by the National Black United Front and supported by Milwaukee Inner City Allied Congregations for Hope, Occupy The Hood, Occupy Milwaukee and the WI Bail Out the People Movement.

While condemning the lynching of Trayvon Martin, speakers also denounced the Milwaukee police department’s ongoing terrorism in the Black and other oppressed communities. Several officers have been placed under administrative review due to community pressure after they were found to have been forcing Black community members — both men and women — to pull down their pants during stop-and-frisk searches. Other charges include planting drugs, death threats, and illegal search and seizures.

On March 23, a “Justice for Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison” protest was held at the police administrative building in downtown Milwaukee. Morrison, 20, was murdered vigilante-style March 3 in Slinger, Wis. Morrison was hiding on Adam Kind’s porch next door to a loud late-night party to avoid being arrested for underage drinking. Because Wisconsin passed a “Castle Doctrine” law, similar to Pennsylvania’s, in 2011 under Gov. Scott Walker, the police have refused to arrest Kind. Further protests demanding justice for Morrison are planned.

Calls for unity to fight racism

Neither torrential rain nor a heavy police presence kept nearly 100 people from demonstrating in Los Angeles on March 25, where they produced their own storm of protest and anger over the racist killing. Speakers at the rally highlighted the blatant and brutal racism condoned and facilitated by local and state police in Florida and recognized the similarities to institutionalized racism perpetrated by the Los Angeles police.

The rally was organized by Occupy the Hood LA. Jefferson Azevedo, a member of the Central Area Neighborhood Council, spoke for Workers World Party, saying that we all need to get involved any way we can to fight injustice and join an organization that works toward unity. Ron Gochez of Unión del Barrio and the Southern California Immigration Coalition spoke of the need for unity of African, Mexican and Latin American peoples who face repression: “We’re going to eventually be in the trenches together, so we might as well get to know each other.”

About 150 to 200 people gathered for a protest rally in the City Heights district of San Diego on March 25.

A crowd gathered outside the S.H.A.P.E. Center’s Harambee Building in Houston March 26 to tell the world, “We are Trayvon Martin.” Drummers arrived early and kept the pace during the two-hour rally. Whole families came out with their children and elders sat on chairs under the trees. Texas Southern University students rallied earlier on campus and were still pumped when they spoke. Victims of police brutality added their powerful presence.

Around 300 marched in Dallas on March 23. More than 500 turned out in Phoenix on March 25, and another 500 people demonstrated in Wichita, Kan.

Around 600 people rallied in ­Nashville, Tenn., on March 24, calling for justice for Martin at the base of Capitol Hill. Close to 400 came out in the rain in Norfolk, Va., on March 23. Hundreds of people turned out for rallies in Greenville and Columbia, S.C.

Hundreds of Alabamians gathered around the Montgomery Civil Rights Memorial for a candlelight vigil on March 22, chanting “I am Trayvon! I am Trayvon!” People said they were there to overcome the wrong of Martin’s death and work together to make it right. William Black, 22, a young African-American from Pittsburgh living in Montgomery, noted that no matter where he lives, he feels judged due to unjust stereotyping. (waka.com, March 25)

These protests come at a time when the doors to education are being shut to Black and other oppressed youth and when the global capitalist economic crisis is turning away youth seeking jobs by the millions. They come at a time when more prisons are being built, while schools are being closed. They come at a time when blatant racism, police brutality and attacks on voting rights are the order of the day.

But these demonstrations also come on the heels of Occupy Wall Street protests that target the glaring economic and political disparity between the wealthiest 1% and the majority 99%. Those protests provide an example that it is possible to fight back.

Sharon Black, Eugene Clancy, John Long, Monica Moorehead, John Parker, Bryan G. Pfeifer, Andre Powell, Jimmy Raynor, Gloria Rubac, Susan Schnur, Gerry Scoppettuolo, Eric Struch and ­Gloria Verdieu contributed to this article.