Text messages, emails, Facebook and Twitter announcements brought more than a hundred community members to San Jose’s City Hall on Sunday, as part of a protest and march in response to the not guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.
On Saturday, six jurors in Sanford, Florida, found George Zimmerman, 29, not guilty of murder—or any other charges—in the February 2012 shooting that left Martin, a 17-year-old African American male, dead. Zimmerman says he followed Martin, while carrying a loaded gun, because he thought the teenager was a burglar. A confrontation ensued and Martin, who was visiting his family and had little more than Skittles on his person, was left dead. Zimmerman claimed he shot and killed Martin in self-defense.
Protesters in San Jose, as well as other rallies across the country this past weekend, believe Martin was targeted and killed because of his race.
“This isn’t just Trayvon; this is a pattern that’s been happening to young black and brown men when they are murdered by cops, when they are murdered by these vigilante community watch groups,” said Michelle Pujol, member of the Chicano student organization MECHA de San Jose State. “This injustice happens to people of color and the state upholds it and our justice system upholds it, and it needs to end now. We are tired of it.”
Protestors met at 6pm outside of City Hall, where they made signs that read: “Justice for Trayvon;” “No Justice, No Peace;” and “We are Trayvon.” Many spoke about their frustrations with the verdict. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic but has often been labeled white in the media, was found not guilty of second-degree murder as well as manslaughter. Many critics of the ruling have taken aim at Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, although the judge and prosecutors both stated that it was not relevant. Unlike some states that require citizens to retreat from danger in public places, Florida allows a person to “stand their ground” and use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger.
Raj Jayadev, head of community group Silicon Valley De-Bug, called the national protests “an instinctual response by a community in shock. Florida is very far way, but the question of injustice is very near and personal.”
People shouted, “No justice no peace, we’re taking it to the streets,” while walking through downtown San Jose. It wasn’t long before the San Jose Police Department dispatched seven cars to monitor the protest.
Bridgette Halcrombe, 52, in town visiting her son, a student at San Jose State, said Sunday was the first time she has ever participated in a protest. She said she was “shocked” when police began ordering protesters to get out of the street.
“As if they don’t have anything else to do but stop us from marching and supporting Trayvon and his family,” she said.
Victor Guendulain, a community member and organizer for an organization called “No More, No Más,” called Sunday’s march “a show of solidarity with the rest of the nation; a show of solidarity with Trayvon’s family; and a show of outrage at the situation.”
Protesters plans to meet again at City Hall at 4:30pm Tuesday and 6pm Sunday.
“Hopefully we can put more pressure on our local government to make policy changes and eventually it will get to the federal level,” said SJSU student Malcolm Halcrombe.
Photos by Christiana Cobb