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Downtown rally calls for ‘Justice for Trayvon’

Thousands gathered Dirksen Federal PlazSaturday 'Justice for Trayvon' rally. | DianNovak~Sun-Times

Thousands gathered in Dirksen Federal Plaza on Saturday at the "Justice for Trayvon" rally. | Diana Novak~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 22, 2013 7:02AM



A day after President Barack Obama said “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” hundreds gathered in Chicago’s Dirksen Federal Plaza on Saturday to demand justice for Martin — and for themselves.

Moses Jones, a retired high school math teacher handing out signs before the rally, said Obama’s words — describing being tailed in stores and watching women “clutch their purses” in his presence — came “right on time.”

“Not only can I identify with it, I’ve had it done to me,” Jones said.

George Zimmerman’s acquittal in Florida last week of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of the hoodie-wearing Martin, who was unarmed and carrying only Skittles, some ice tea and money, has escalated the outcry over what protesters said is racially divided justice. Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Speakers at the Chicago rally implored those gathered to prevent similar outcomes in the future, starting with repealing the “stand your ground” laws that exist in Florida. Many urged protesters to register, vote and pressure politicians to do something about the disparities, in addition to calling for federal charges in the case.

“I am asking you not to forget. You need to hold all of our feet to the fire,” Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) told the crowd. “We need to know the masses are behind us.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said the state of Florida needs to see financial repercussions from its “stand your ground” law.

“In Florida ‘stand your ground’ is an incentive to kill. We must all boycott Florida,” Jackson said, specifically mentioning conventions and spring break trips.

Much of the Chicago rally, one of 100 held around the country and coordinated by the National Action Network and activist Al Sharpton, was directed at protecting and educating children. Mothers came for their sons, who they said could be Martin; families brought children in strollers, all hoisting signs with an outline of a hooded teen.

“I wear hoodies. I eat Skittles,” Avery Bolden, 12, told the crowd from the stage. “That could have been me.”

Bolden said that since the end of the trial, her parents have had her studying her Miranda rights and talking about what she would do if she found herself in a similar situation.

Danielle Sanders brought her three children to Saturday’s rally in an effort to help them understand how to be involved in their communities through protest and peaceful expression.

Sanders said hearing Obama speak his personal experiences was incredibly moving in that it highlighted the everyday racial disparities that made Trayvon Martin’s story so compelling to those at the rally.

“If you don’t know my story, it’s hard for you to understand it,” Sanders said.



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