An estimated 700 people, lead by Lawrence Hamm and members of The People’s Organization for Progress, march down Broad Street in Newark during an emergency rally to condemn the acquittal of George Zimmerman of both second decree murder and manslaughter in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Click link above to view video by Robert Sciarrino/The Star Ledger
By Jessica Calefati and Dan Goldberg/The Star-Ledger
NEWARK — Their reasons were universal and personal; their cause common and intensely private.
The hundreds of people who endured 95-degree temperatures in Newark this afternoon to protest the verdict of the George Zimmerman murder trial were there because of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Zimmerman killed last year.
But they were also there for their own communities, their own families, their own sons.
Protesters of varying ages and races gathered at the corner of Market and Broad streets. The crowd chanted ” No justice, no peace” and Martin’s name before marching to the federal courthouse. One woman splayed her body on the roadway and posed with iced tea and a bag of Skittles, the snacks Martin left his father’s home to purchase the night he died.
The mood was mostly somber, not angry.
Guerlie Bazile Arglade attended the protest because she fears her 20-year-old son could be the next Trayvon Martin, she said. The family lives in affluent Short Hills, and Bazile Arglade said Martin’s death proves a young black man can be mistaken as an outsider in his own community.
“When he comes home late at night, I fear he’ll be killed by someone who doesn’t realize he belongs here,” said Bazile Arglade, whose nephew Jaysen also protested, wearing a shirt with a hoodie attached.
Thirty Newark police officers monitored the demonstration, but the protesters were peaceful. Larry Hamm, founder of People’s Organization for Progress and one of the event’s organizers, said maintaining peace was essential to the rally’s success.
“This had to be nonviolent. A violent response would have defeated the goal we’re working toward,” Hamm said. “We want President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a federal investigation and bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.”
Hamm said another protest is planned for tomorrow at 5:30 p.m., and he hopes the demonstration draws an even larger crowd.
The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition also helped organize the rally.
Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges Saturday night in the death of Martin, the 17-year-old he fatally shot last year in his Sanford, Fla., neighborhood. A six-woman jury found that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot the unarmed teen in self-defense.
POLITICIANS SPEAK OUT
Speaking to protesters, Newark councilman and mayoral candidate Ras Baraka called the verdict disgraceful and compared Martin to Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was mutilated and murdered by white men in Mississippi in the 1950s.
“Michael Vick was arrested for fighting dogs. Plaxico Burress was arrested for shooting his own self. But you can kill a black man in this country and claim you were afraid and go free?” said Baraka, one of the few city politicians at the rally.
“We have to push this country to live up to the things it claims to be,” he said.
Other politicians, athletes and New Jersey natives took to Twitter overnight Saturday to address the high-profile verdict.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a U.S. Senate hopeful, called on people to react through public service. His chief competitor in the Senate race, Rep. Frank Pallone, wrote that the trial highlighted the nation’s “inadequate gun laws.”
New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz stirred controversy when he tweeted, “Thoroughly confused. Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up to him.” The tweet was quickly deleted, though screenshots of it were all over the internet this morning.
Michael B. Jordan, a young actor who graduated from Newark Arts High School and went on to act in “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights,” is now the star of the film “Fruitvale Station,” about a man who was shot and killed by police in Oakland. He wrote:
“I cannot believe this is the America I live in right now.”
Mary Szacik, 38, of Matawan said she can’t believe it either.
Wearing a wide brimmed hat to shield her face from the sun, Szacik marched all afternoon. She began to cry as she described her frustration with the verdict and the racial profiling she said led to Trayvon Martin’s death.
“The verdict, as sad and shocking and stunning as it was, did not surprise me,” she said. “What surprises me is that we don’t talk about racism, that we shy away from discussing the problem like it’s some kind of disease.”
Szacik is white and said her skin color affords her the comfort of knowing she will never experience the anguish Trayvon Martin’s family must feel today.
“I’m here in solidarity with them,” she said. “We need justice. We all need justice for Trayvon.”
Star-Ledger staff writer Ryan Hutchins contributed to this report.