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Thousands Protest the Racist Murder of Trayvon Martin at NYC's 'Million Hoodie March'

Participants stressed that while they were there for Trayvon Martin, the problem went far beyond him, to a culture in which young Black men are assumed to be dangerous.
 
 
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Last night, thousands of individuals packed into New York's Union Square before taking the streets for the Million Hoodies March. They came to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, the seventeen-year-old boy who was murdered in Sanford, Florida, after buying some Skittles and iced tea. His confessed murderer, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, cried self-defense, and the police did not charge him. But recently released 9/11 calls and testimony from Martin's friend, to whom he was speaking moments before his death, make it clear that Zimmerman was on the prowl before he fatally shot Trayvon.

Police, however, seemed to have little interest in investigating the death of a young, Black male. Cops even called Trayvon Martin's body a John Doe. Combating the racism exhibited by both Zimmerman and the Sanford Police Department, the message last night was not that Martin is just another dead Black kid -- it was that "Trayvon Martin matters. You matter." Moreover, it was that justice is universal. "No justice, no peace," they said. "What if Martin had been white?" Demonstrators demanded Zimmerman be prosecuted and called for a cultural revolution to create a society where being Black in a hoodie doesn't get people murdered, by citizens or police.

"I reek of Brooklyn," said City Councilman Jumaane Williams from the stage, a gray hood over his long dreads. "I'm not a criminal. I'm a New York City Councilman."

"My blood is not cheap. We want justice -- just like you want justice when police fall, we want justice when we fall," said Williams, who has been an outspoken critic of New York's racist stop-and -frisk policing tactic.

"I don't play the race card," Williams said, "it's always given to me."

Williams, like other participants, stressed that while they were there for Trayvon Martin, the problem went far beyond him. Ours is a deadly culture, they said, in which young Black men are assumed to be dangerous.

"The mayor and commissioner of this city have provided no leadership," said Williams, adding that they have instead "provided a culture that, at a minimum, allowed me to be arrested on Labor Day, and Ramarley Graham shot." Just eighteen years old when NYPD officers busted down his door without a warrant, Graham was shot and killed in the bathroom of his apartment, while his grandmother and six-year-old brother were inside. He, too, was wearing a hoodie, and his name was echoed throughout the night.

As the Martins' lawyer Benjamin Crump took the stage, he explained that Zimmerman's accusations (that Martin was on drugs and "up to no good") were racial stereotypes. Perhaps more disturbing is that the police believed him. Crump reiterated that no drug, alcohol, or background tests were conducted on George Zimmerman before he was allowed to walk away without a murder charge. Martin, however, was tested for substances posthumously. Even in death, he was suspicious.

"I am Trayvon Martin!" the crowd chanted repeatedly, echoing rallying cries following Troy Davis' execution.

The most emotional part of the evening, however, was when Martin's parents took the stage. For so many women in the crowd that night, the march was about showing support for the Martins, and ensuring the safety of their own children.

"We're not going to stop until we get justice," said Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, "My son did not deserve to die."

"Trayvon was just a typical teenager," he said, "Trayvon was not a bad person."

Martin said that while nothing can bring his son back, he can work to ensure that justice is served and that no other parents have to suffer like he has.

 
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