DETROIT – Hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Detroit on Sunday evening in a rally against the acquittal of George Zimmerman.
Despite the near 90-degree temperatures, many of the protesters wore hoodies in solidarity with Martin as they demanded justice for his death as well as an end to the crippling violence in the city of Detroit.
“We’re on the hunt for justice,” Ron Scott, the leader of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said on Sunday night. “We’re on a hunt to change the type of system that allows this. We’re on a hunt to build unity and we’re going to get it.”
The rally, which was held at Detroit’s Grand Circus Park, drew a racially and culturally diverse group of protesters.
Amid the chants of “No Justice, No Peace” and scores cars honking horns in support – including EMS, fire, and police vehicles – many brought signs and pictures decrying the verdict, while others held up bible verses and pictures of a hoodie-clad Martin.
The rally was peaceful and without incident. The common theme amongst the all of the protesters was that the verdict made the lives of black men seem dispensable.
“How many of you remember the group Public Enemy,” Scott said. “They had a young black man with a target on his back on their album cover. When we talk about George Zimmerman, we’re not just talking about a guy that happened to be acquitted; we’re talking about a person that showed no remorse, that chased [Trayvon] down like he was an animal.”
The rally also drew support from groups such as the NAACP, which is currently circulating a petition to the justice department to have Zimmerman brought up on federal charges of violating Martin’s civil rights. Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP said late Saturday night that they only want justice for Martin, and that sentiment was loudly echoed at the rally.
“There will not be one minute of comfort for George Zimmerman,” Brian White, the public policy chair for the Michigan NAACP, said during the rally. “There is no comfort for Trayvon Martin’s family, there will be no comfort for George Zimmerman.”
White, who is a Detroit native, said that he felt like a grieving father after the verdict was read on Saturday night. He said that the NAACP has every intention of getting Zimmerman brought to justice in the federal courts.
“I thought about my son being in Trayvon’s situation and I couldn’t imagine the pain that his family is going through,” White said. “It brought back memories of my great-grandparents and they fought in the struggle for a long time and what thy wanted to do was make sure that we didn’t have to fight the same fight that they did.
White called it a “sad state of affairs in America” that Zimmerman could be acquitted while others such as Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who fired warning shots at her abusive ex-husband, are serving jail time. White did see a positive in the level of diversity in the crowd, which was nearly evenly split between blacks and whites.
“This crowd shows there truly was an injustice,” White said. “Law abiding, good-hearted people recognized this injustice and are willing to speak up. We live in the greatest country in the world, but America needs to change, especially when it comes to the judicial system.
“There’s two tracks of justice and these people out here realize that. I think this is the start of something big.”
The Department of Justice said on Sunday that they would review the case to determine if would prosecute Zimmerman. The NAACP’s website experienced record traffic on Sunday in response to the petition demanding the DOJ bring charges.
“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department’s policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial,” the DOJ said on Sunday. White said that there will be justice for Trayvon Martin and the NAACP among other civil rights organizations will see to it that it happens.
“Trayvon Martin didn’t die in vain,” White said. “His name will live on forever. Obviously, race played a role in [Zimmerman’s] decision to pursue Trayvon Martin and to ultimately kill him and it also played a part in the jury’s decision to find him not guilty.
“We’re not the ones race baiting. George Zimmerman chose to race bait that night and we want to see those charges brought against him because he violated Trayvon Martin’s civil rights.”
Jay Scott Smith is a contributor to TheGrio. You can follow him on Twitter @JayScottSmith.