On Saturday, George Zimmerman was acquitted by a six-person jury in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Sanford, Fla., resident who was unarmed at the time. The verdict left Charlesia McKinney, senior in English, “deeply enraged and moved.”
“I kind of had this moment of realizing, I can organize something, I don’t have to wait for somebody else to do it,” McKinney said. “I do feel that Trayvon Martin’s life matters very much and he’s essentially being blamed for his own death. The victim is the only one paying for this, and that’s very unjust to me.”
On Tuesday evening, about 20 people gathered in Triangle Park for a peaceful protest, carrying signs and chanting, “What do we want? Justice!” Violence erupted over the weekend during protests in Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., but McKinney said she wanted this protest to remain peaceful.
“I wanted to do a peaceful protest to say that we don’t have to riot and that nonviolence is equally as powerful,” McKinney said.
Participants lined Triangle Park along Anderson Avenue, holding handwritten signs that declared, “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere,” “Honk if you want justice for Trayvon Martin” and “AmeriKKKa.” Some drivers honked as they drove by, and at least one rolled down his window while stopped in traffic and shouted to express his disapproval of the justice system.
Dominique Brookshire, senior in elementary education, said she participated in the protest because she wanted to inform people about the case, and she hopes protests like this will have a judicial effect.
“That’s what we’re really out here for; we want justice,” Brookshire said.
Brookshire said she disagreed with the jurors’ decision in Zimmerman’s trial.
“Simply because a boy got killed,” Brookshire explained, “and when there’s murder that takes place — I’m not saying he needs to go to jail his whole life or what the sentence should actually be — he should be responsible for that.”
Kelsey Hixson-Bowles, graduate student in English, said she attended the rally because she followed the trial and wanted to express public support for Martin.
“I just hope that people think harder about what’s going on right now,” Hixson-Bowles said.
McKinney said ultimately, she wanted the protest to spread awareness and educate anyone who did not know about Martin’s death.
“I knew there were other people who felt that way around here, even if it wasn’t the majority, and even if I had to stand alone, I wanted to express that Trayvon’s life matters and that lives similar to his matter,” McKinney said.