Hundreds of Chicagoans called out “No Justice, No Peace!” as they gathered Sunday across the street from the Everett M. Dirksen Courthouse to protest the verdict of George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and to mourn the unarmed 17-year-old boy’s death.
Rev. Ira Acree, Rev. Marshall Hatch and Rev. Gregory Livingston, ministers from the West and South Sides, helped organize the rally. It was one of about 100 vigils held nationwide Sunday and organized by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
“We march around the nation today because we’re in a state of emergency,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson. “We’re here today because of our children who now face diminished justice . . . Trayvon Martin [was] an unarmed boy who was murdered on the way home by a man who saw him as a suspect rather than a resident.”
During the protest, several speakers, including Erica Gordon Taylor, a relative of Emmett Till, called for peace and expressed their outrage over this month’s Zimmerman verdict. National organizations, including Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, were also represented.
“For me, all I could think was the festering sores of injustice were torn all over again for my family,” Taylor said.
A goal of the rally was to get people registered to vote, to support a civil rights case against Zimmerman and to launch a march in Washington to reprise Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington held Aug. 28, 1963, Acree said. It’s planned for Aug. 24.
“There are a lot of Trayvons on the West Side and South Side,” Livingston said. “There are Trayvons all over this country. And just because your name is Trayvon, doesn’t mean you can’t have the promise of freedom and justice for all.”
As protesters rallied outside the Dirksen Courthouse, they held signs depicting Martin in his hoodie along with rainbow flags showing Trayvon’s image. Some protesters, like Olen Slaughter, took the day off from work to participate in the rally.
“If we don’t come together, nothing is going to change,” Slaughter said. “I hope the young people will get involved [in their community], and I’d like to see the young people go out and vote.”
Therese Kelleghan, another demonstrator, said she found the Florida man’s acquittal disappointing but the rally inspiring.
“I hope the awareness is raised and the conversation is opened,” Kelleghan said. “We need to do something and change the laws that allow a young black man to be killed for walking home with candy in his hand.”
Wednesday, Martin’s father will attend the first hearing of the newly formed Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys. Austin Congressman Danny K. Davis is co-chair of the group, whose focus Wednesday will be: “The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature Into Strong Men.”