Thousands gathered in downtown Detroit on March 26, 2012 during a national day of action calling for justice in the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old was killed by a vigilante one month before. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Trayvon Martin case: Massive rally held at Detroit's Hart Plaza
Monday, 03.26.2012, 10:45pm
Arab American News
Hart Plaza in Detroit was the site of a massive rally on Monday, March 26 in support of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black teenager who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida. The rally was part of several held that included thousands of people at cities from coast-to-coast.
In Detroit, hundreds showed up, many of them in hooded sweatshirts and some carrying Skittles and bottles of iced tea to signify the items Martin had when he was shot, while later chanting, “No justice, no peace” in reference to his case. Martin was killed on Feb. 26 when he was heading for his father's fiance's house and was shot despite being unarmed, although the details of the case are still being sorted out. On Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that authorities said Martin had earlier punched the man who shot and killed him, George Zimmerman, and slammed his head into the sidewalk. Witnesses corroborated part of the story, the report said, but not the initial punch.
There was also a dispute about whether cries heard during the sidewalk part of the incident were from Zimmerman or Martin. Zimmerman hasn't been charged yet; he's claiming it was self defense.
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting and Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor to the case.
Abayomi Azikiwe from the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice was among those who attended to hear various speakers on the evening.
“This is typical of the type of racial profiling we see in America; it's a travesty,” he said. “Unfortunately we will see more of this as the economy worsens, racial tensions will escalate.”
Azikiwe said that in such cases, the perpetrators need to be held accountable in order for society and tensions to heal, and stressed the importance of education in order to improve race relations.
He also spoke about Shiama Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi American Muslim and a hijab-wearing mother of five from California by way of Michigan who was beaten and killed in her Southern California home recently with a note left calling her a “terrorist” and telling her to go back to her home country.
“It seems like a clear hate crime...it seems that people of color's lives mean less and less...people of color need to unite to combat racism,” he said.
At the rally, speakers included NAACP Detroit President and Arab American Civil Rights League board member Rev. Wendell Anthony as well as Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, UAW Region 1A Director Rory Gamble, Wayne County Clerk Kathy Garrett and others.
Many speakers repeated the mantra “I am Trayvon Martin” or stressed that their children could potentially be mistaken for a threat and become targets considering the way they dress is often similar to Martin, for example.
Godbee said perceptions are part of a larger problem including the media's “If it bleeds it leads” focus, stressing that he wants to see more positive stories highlighted about men of color specifically.
Anthony again called for justice and for a solidarity movement. “One cannot look at Florida and not be concerned about justice, it is as if Lady Justice somehow lifted her blindfold (in this case).”
He and many others spoke out against violence at home as well. Anthony noted the many marches against violence in Detroit communities, saying that some perceptions that African Americans in particular are only rallying for the Martin case and not against violence in all its forms are false.
He said that all people of conscience and various organizations including the ACRL, Rainbow PUSH coalition of Jesse Jackson, the Detroit 300 neighborhood organization and more should stand together for justice.
“We need to rally for Trayvon, and the best thing we can do now is to rally to fix Detroit, because the cavalry isn't coming from Capitol Hill, it's coming from right here.”