Protests across the U.S.
July 15 — The ongoing anger of the oppressed African-American masses and all anti-racist, justice-loving people across the United States continues to spread. These spontaneous protests are sending a strong message to the White House, the truly criminal “justice” system, the corporate moguls on Wall Street and their representatives everywhere that racism and denial of justice will not be tolerated.
When news of the “not guilty” jury verdict for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was released around 10 p.m. Eastern time on July 13, shock, sadness, rage and action spread quickly all over the country.
Beyonce was just about to take the stage at a concert in Nashville, Tenn., when the news broke. The stage was almost dark as the singer said, “I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon.” Afterwards, she sang the chorus of “I Will Always Love You,” a beautiful song made famous by the late Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton. Even popular singer, Miley Cyrus, tweeted, “No justice! No peace!” Legendary singer, Stevie Wonder, announced his boycott of Florida.
Fifty people came out at midnight in Philadelphia and others went into the streets in Atlanta in anger at the racist verdict, reported Workers World Party activists. Protests broke out in LosAngeles and Oakland,Calif., Chicago and Sanford, Fla., the site of the trial and the city where Zimmerman killed the African-American youth on Feb. 26, 2012.
More than 2,000 protested in New York City’s Union Square on July 14 before thousands more joined them in taking over Times Square. Some 500 rallied again at Union Square today before marching to Washington Square Park and Foley Square.
In Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a multinational crowd gathered July 14 in Malcolm X Park to protest the “outrageous” verdict. Veteran civil rights activists, church leaders, progressive politicians, and high school and Vassar College students addressed the rally. Longtime fighter Mae Parker-Harris told the crowd, “The police have been killing young Black men and getting away with it, and now racist civilians are, too.”
Taking to streets on West Coast
On July 14, more than 2,000 people gathered at the corner of Martin Luther King and Crenshaw boulevards in South Central Los Angeles, demanding Zimmerman be jailed for murder and expressing outrage at the racist decision. The rally was followed by a militant march to one of the busiest freeways in the country. Activists shut it down.
The protest was organized by the Los Angeles Coalition for Community Control Over the Police and the Committee to Form a People’s Power Assembly, of which the International Action Center and Workers World Party are a part. Various organizations, activists and community members echoed the earlier PPA call to unite in action.
Keyanna Bean, of the LACCCOP, co-chaired the rally. She stressed the importance of building unity through solidarity with women’s struggles and then performed conscious spoken word.
John Parker, West Coast IAC leader and PPA organizer, proposed a July 27 PPA tribunal and hearing against police repression and racist violence. A California branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Martin Luther King Coalition for Jobs and Justice, Southern California Immigration Coalition, Stop FBI Surveillance, Union del Barrio and other organizations agreed to build for the tribunal.
In downtown Oakland, Calif., a multinational crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza on July 14. Rally speakers, including Tim Killings and Jabari Shaw, decried the unjust verdict and the racist justice system. Tova Fry, representing the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition, drew analogies between Blueford and Martin. She held up a wanted poster for Miguel Masso, the Oakland police officer who killed Blueford and has yet to be prosecuted or even fired.
A four-mile march down Broadway and then into West Oakland eventually returned to Oscar Grant Plaza, where marchers blocked the 14th and Broadway intersection for hours. Community members gathered along the march route, shouting support, and drivers honked their horns. Another rally was called for 6 p.m. on July 15 at the same location.
In San Diego, at least 1,000 people joined in what an eye-witness called a “powerful” demonstration on July 14.
Hundreds of people rallied in North Portland, Ore., on July 14 as they surrounded Peninsula Park’s gazebo where dozens denounced the Zimmerman verdict. The Portland Campaign to End the New Jim Crow organized the rally.
Actions for justice in the South
In Atlanta, several protests took place on July 14, including at CNN’s headquarters. The biggest action started at 6 p.m. at West End Park, known to activists as Malcolm X Park. The multinational group of hundreds of young people, parents and children, older men and women, and activists — from the city and the suburbs — expressed their outrage at the decision. Spotted in the crowd were leaders of the Georgia Student Justice Alliance, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and Rainbow/PUSH, as well as key organizers in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights and liberation struggles, and former Occupy activists.
After a speak-out, the group marched for miles in the streets to the downtown area, gathering people as it went along, swelling to 1,000 strong. Rain soaked demonstrators for 15 minutes, but they pressed on, going past CNN and then taking over Peachtree Street, the main downtown, hotel-lined street. About 500 people, with drums and chanting “Justice for Trayvon!” blocked traffic for a half-hour at a major intersection on Peachtree.
Marchers moved through a nightclub and restaurant district on their way back to Malcolm X Park. All along the route, supporters came out of apartment complexes, restaurants and clubs to cheer and chant with the demonstrators. People were empowered to take their streets to express their anger. Drivers honked their horns in rhythm with the chants. Even as late as 10 p.m., at least 100 people were chanting and drumming. At least 5,000 people rallied in front of the center of Atlanta University complex tonight, then marched down Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd. and held a second rally in front of the headquarters of CNN.
In Birmingham, Ala., a noon protest demanded justice for Trayvon Martin on July 14. Dynamic speakers deplored judicial attacks on the Voting Rights Act, the student loan crisis and homelessness. Some 400 people marched from Kelly Ingram Park to the Justice Building and back, shouting “No justice, no peace!”
In Portsmouth, Va., several hundred, mostly youth, took the streets the evening of July 14, following a rally at Norcom High School, and chanted “No justice, no peace!”
In Durham, N.C., more than 350 people joined a rally organized by the Coalition for Liberty and Justice for Carlos Riley Jr., Durham Solidarity Center and WWP.
In Philadelphia, thousands, overwhelmingly young people, rallied at Love Park on July 14 and marched through Center City to the Federal Building, before returning to the park.
Midwest expresses outrage
In Detroit, hundreds gathered downtown on Woodward Avenue at Grand Circus Park for a 5:30 p.m. rally on July 14 called by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice and joined by other organizations. Speakers included Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Abayomi Azikiwe of MECAWI, and Mertilla Jones, grandmother of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones, who was gunned down and killed by police in May 2010. “I’m here to fight for the other Aiyanas to come,” said Jones, who wept during her remarks. The multinational crowd of 500 people, young and older, marched to the Federal Building.
Demanding justice for Martin, 300 people of different nationalities marched in Milwaukee on July 14. The action began at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue and went downtown, with youth taking over intersections and drawing in passersby.
In Buffalo, N.Y., people rallied across the street from police department headquarters on July 14 in opposition to the “not guilty” verdict. Demonstrators marched and chanted their way through one of the city’s most oppressed areas, concluding with a rally against racism and police brutality. Many community members dropped their daily activities and joined the march, as hundreds of passing drivers honked their horns in support.
Fight the Power, an organization of young Black Pan-African activists, initiated and organized the demonstration. It was supported by the IAC, WWP, Buffalo Save the Kids, Prisoners are People Too, Stop the Violence Coalition, the Western NY Peace Center, Occupy Buffalo, Jalil Muntaqim, among other groups and individuals.
In Rochester, N.Y., more than 100 people, including many African Americans and local progressives, protested at the Liberty Pole downtown on July 14. Adam McFadden, a Black City Council member, called the demonstration.
In Baltimore, 1,000 outraged people marched from McKeldin Park to City Hall on July 15. Other protests took place in Houston, Boston, Northampton, Mass., and Newark, N.J., among other U.S. cities.
The Peoples Power Assemblies’ Facebook page contains posts about demonstrations in many cities on July 14, including Brooklyn, Syracuse and Harlem, N.Y.; Providence, R.I.; Erie, Pa.; Washington, D.C.; Cincinnati; Rockford, Ill.; Madison, Wis.; Miami and Tallahassee, Fla.; Denver; and Salt Lake City.
Despite President Barack Obama’s assertion that “We are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken” and appeals from him and other leaders for “calm,” righteous anger, accompanied by continued protests, has spread quickly. The racism and injustice of the Zimmerman verdict have sparked comparisons with other racist injustices, like that of Marissa Alexander, an African-American woman sentenced in Florida to 20 years for just firing a warning shot as her violent, estranged spouse threatened her.
The entire capitalist system and its “justice” system that incarcerates 2.5 million people in the U.S., while letting off racist killers like Zimmerman, will surely bring more and more members of the vast multinational working class into the streets to seek the justice that has been so long denied for the most oppressed.
Contributing to this article were WW correspondents Sharon Black, John Catalinotto, Tommy Cavanaugh, Gene Clancy, Keith Fine, Terri Kay, John Long, Dianne Mathiowetz, Bob McCubbin, Monica Moorehead, John Parker,
Betsey Piette, Joe Piette, Jimmy Raynor, Gerry Scoppettuolo, Dante Strobino,
Derek Thacker and Jim Wallace.