Dozens of Long Islanders marched Sunday in North Babylon, protesting a Florida jury acquitting neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman of murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death last year of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
Drivers on Deer Park Avenue honked at the group as they chanted “justice for Trayvon, justice for peace!” A Burger King employee came outside, put on a hood–like the hooded sweatshirt Martin wore when he was killed–raised both hands in peace signs and shouted “I support you!” And the group got a belated thumbs up from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone after they knocked on the window at Panera Bread, where he was on his laptop and didn’t initially acknowledge them.
“We wanted to show that even though he didn’t get justice, he didn’t die in vain,” Brianna Addison, a 20-year-old North Babylon resident, Temple University media major and the organizer of the march said of Martin.
The peaceful demonstration against the verdict was one of countless nationwide. Thousands of people marched in Manhattan, where more than a dozen were reportedly arrested. Violent clashes between protestors and police were reported in California.
The case exposed deep racial fault lines and sparked debate over the NRA-backed Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and two dozen other states, which critics say encourages deadly vigilantism. It also has parents rethinking how they teach their kids to protect themselves.
Robert Johnson, a 43-year-old HVAC worker from Wyndanch who says he’s been a victim of police brutality, is changing his advice to his 15-year-old son, if he were to find himself in Martin’s situation.
“Before it would have been to stand your ground,” Johnson said while holding a candle in the march. “But now? My advice would have been to run home fast.”
Tanya, a 44-year-old from Copiague, said she’s now “terrified” when her 17-year-old son asks to leave the house to go to the store, which was the last thing Martin did before being gunned down.
“You cant just take somebody’s life because they wore a hoodie and you can’t just take the law into your own hands because you have a gun,” she said. “That could have been my son…that could have been any of our sons, whether white, black or indifferent.”
Addison, the march organizer, said she’s planning a rally for every Sunday at 8 p.m. next to Sonic on Deer Park Avenue for the next month.