Chattanooga marchers call for justice in Florida shooting death

Chattanooga marchers call for justice in Florida shooting death

March 27th, 2012 by Steve Hardy in News

Amanda Archibald, left, and Jennifer Hayes participate in a moment of silence during a rally to find justice for Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in Florida last month.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

LISTEN IN

Local musicians Big Mike Mic and T-ran Gilbert provided the soundtrack for Monday's rally, performing their song "City Without Tears".

Hundreds of black, white, young and old Chattanoogans marched Monday afternoon in a crowd that spread over two blocks down Market Street and called for justice on the month anniversary of the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Florida.

"[The community] needs to step up our game and have more of a say in the democratic process," said event organizer Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson.

After high schooler Trayvon Martin was fatally shot in the Orlando area last month by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, many have called the homicide racially motivated and an abuse of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Several Chattanooga demonstrators even marched in the 82-degree heat wearing hoodies like the one Martin wore when he was killed, a symbolic gesture adopted by protesters across the nation.

Participant Fanesa Brewer said bringing her sons to the rally to learn about the Florida shooting is important. Her son, she said, attends Ooltewah High School and wears a red hoodie as part of his uniform.

Others also expressed concern for the area's black youths.

"Parents need to know ... how to protect their families, and kids need to know how to protect themselves," said Courtlund Henderson, who addressed the crowd at Miller Park after the march. "[The Martin shooting] teaches us to protect ourselves, and the justice system isn't going to do anything to protect us.

"I am Trayvon Martin!" Henderson said, "And you are, and you, and you!"

He pointed out members of the crowd, urging them to take the issue personally because, as one sign read, "Could be Yours Tomorrow."

At least one Chattanooga elected official was watching. City Councilman Russell Gilbert was among the attendees at the post-march rally.

Event organizer Mark Gilliland said the Florida shooting is only one face of systematic problems of racial profiling and racial injustice, which he says leads to "devaluation of the lives of black people."

Mark Shaffer carries a sign and a pack of Skittles during a rally to find justice for Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in Florida last month.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

But many attendees said their primary concern is injustice, not racism.

"Every race should be offended," Brewer said.

"Murder is murder, and wrong is wrong -- black, white, red, yellow or blue," added participant Riley Shaw.

While the march, the speakers, the rappers and the vigil stirred the crowd, where the event's energy will lead is unclear.

Henderson addressed participants before they had taken a single step, noting that the black community is sometimes criticized for holding lots of marches and then never talking about their problems. However, she said that they do discuss important issues in their neighborhoods and hoped that the rally would be a stepping-off point for further talk of justice in Chattanooga.

At this time, questions remain about specific issues the community wants to focus on, how they will organize and if they can retain the same energy of the march moving forward.

Participant Lucilla Nash said, "This is a start. We need to have a conversation."

"Otherwise things will just stay the same," her friend Cassandra Tucker concluded.

Similar rallies were held in other cities: Thousands gathered on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol in Atlanta in memory of the unarmed, 17-year-old Martin; hundreds met at the location where Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in Memphis to call for the arrest of Zimmerman; and Memphis-area activists and Mayor A C Wharton, who is black, spoke at a rally at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Follow the latest Chattanooga news on Facebook.