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Senseless killing of Trayvon Martin resonates in Grand Rapids

The killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin resonates with Grand Rapids demonstrators.
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Killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin outrages Grand Rapids residents

When Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26th, the country cried out. Local residents raised awareness last Saturday by marching from Martin Luther King Park to Rosa Parks Circle and back again.

/Ryan McCarthy

/Ryan McCarthy

There is a law in Florida and nine others states called "Stand Your Ground." It reads: "a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony;..."

It also states:

"(1) A person who uses force as justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force,...".

Ever since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while walking to a family member’s home on Feb. 26th in Sanford, Fla., much of the public has been outraged. Trayvon was unarmed, save for a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea. He was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a community watch captain. His death is being called a “slaying” and has garnered national attention. People all over the country are gathering together to show their outrage and are collectively struggling to understand why this happened.

Inside that struggle, Grand Rapids residents staged a rally on March 30th to show their support for the family, try to understand how and why this happened and to raise awareness in the hope that this community will never have to deal with a similar tragedy. The march started at noon at Martin Luther King park, one of the hearts of the African American community in Grand Rapids. Demonstrators walked from MLK park to Rosa Parks Circle and back again. They covered a lot of ground and were noticed by many people. 'The Silent Hoodie' is another march and rally scheduled for April 4th. This event is being organized by Grand Rapids Community College’s black student union.

Rally attendee Tanea Marshall says his death is an injustice. She believes it was assumed Tayvon was in the wrong and now George Zimmerman is claiming self defense. She asserted that if the race of the two were reversed, there would be a different outcome. Tanea has lived by MLK park in Grand Rapids' SE side for 27 years.  

Long time Grand Rapids resident Gerard McKinney states that we all need to "feel the injustice. Being in the [African American] community we are stereotyped no matter what. Trayvon will always have a special place in our hearts."

The Nation of Islam made an appearance at the rally as well. They seemed to be acting as crowd control, support and also offering a glimpse in to the absolute dedication they have to the people. Their military maneuvers reminded the crowd that they can mobilize at any moment and are a very powerful presence in the African American community.  

Nation of Islam member Robert Mohammed says "Anything our people are about, [NOI] will support as long it is the right and just cause." When asked what he hoped to accomplish by attending the rally, he replied, "Time will tell, there is much more to be said."

Zimmerman had his own run-in with the law in 2005. He was arrested in Orlando for "obstructing justice" and "resisting an officer with violence." This altercation resulted in a misdemeanor charge and Zimmerman was ordered by the court to attend anger management classes. Whether or not this should have precluded Zimmerman from being on the community watch, let alone be the captain, is one for the ages. Maybe this will encourage further vetting in the future. It does seem that Trayvon would be alive today if Zimmerman was not part of the community watch.

Zimmerman has not been arrested. Despite cries to the contrary from across the country, he will not be any time soon. Would Trayvon Martin be alive if he was Caucasian? Will the march from MLK park and the rally in Rosa Parks Circle raise awareness? Can the action of one community change the actions of others?  

As Robert Mohammed said, time will tell.

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Great article Ryan, thanks for covering this story.