A peace rally for Trayvon Martin, a teen killed by a Florida neighborhood watch captain who claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, drew a small crowd Thursday near the Georgia Southern University Rotunda.
Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, 28, in Sanford, Fla. in February. Zimmerman has not been charged. The incident has raised national attention.
Event organizer Eliot Griffin said the GSU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Black Student Alliance, and Student African American Brotherhood “banded together to bring about this peace rally.”
With several other activities taking place near the Russell Union Rotunda, many students drifted about, but once they heard others begin chanting “I am…. Trayvon Martin. We are…. Trayvon Martin,” most were drawn to the spot.
Some wore hoodies like the one Martin was wearing when he was shot. Others held posters.
“This is to raise awareness,” Griffin said. “A lot of our fellow students don’t know what is going on.”
Some claim the shooting was racially motivated, and part of the rally was to point out the reality that racism remains alive in the world, including Statesboro, he said.
GSU student Brianna Holmes spoke about a painfully unpleasant experience she had in a local bar in January.
“I was in the bar like 10 minutes, and a man said ‘Oh look, there goes another (racial slur),” she recalled. “Then I had alcohol all over my head.”
The comment was offensive enough, but the drink poured on her added insult to injury.
Holms became emotional as she spoke to the crowd, sharing her humiliation and pain.
“I just walked away,” she said. “It was hard, but I wasn’t going to lower my standards.”
Griffin said racism has been evident at a number of local bars. “I have been denied entrance into (those bars).”
Holmes said she did not see the man who belittled her, but when she turned, “I saw four men laughing in my face, at my tears, at my pain.” Her voice broke as she battled with her emotions.
Griffin spoke to the crowd about their part in demanding justice and fighting racism. About Zimmerman, he said “We feel like he should be prosecuted by a jury of his peers.”
The crowd was solemn as Griffin played part of the 911 call regarding the shooting.
Students read original poetry and called for citizens to take action and send texts, emails and other messages in support of charges against Zimmerman.
Jonathan McCall was passionate in his words to the students. “If you sign a petition at a rally, it is not enough. We must take ownership of our own destiny. The fierce urgency of now is that we can no longer wait for the person beside us. It is up to us.”
Observer Bayo Adebite said he felt the Martin slaying was more about power than race. “The fact of the matter is, (Zimmerman) took it upon himself to follow a man who didn’t even come up to him,” he said. “It’s wrong that he was not arrested.”
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.