Louisville social justice groups are calling for a conversation about race and violence, in the wake of a jury’s “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was accused of shooting and killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
Groups gathered at the Carl Braden Memorial Center in West Louisville today to protest the verdict and make a call for equality.
Tiff Gonzales helped organize the event. She says no amount of protest could change the reality of the jury’s verdict, but many community members want to find a way to look forward.
“We have to commit to making a better city for us, because this is where we live and a better state and yes, a better country for all of us to live in so that people’s dignity and worth is recognized and not expect that violence should befall them,” she said.
“You know, they say ‘no justice no peace.’” Gonzales added. “I never think of that as a threat, but I think of it as if you create a society where people are allowed to stalk and harass and then kill another person and then not be held responsible for it, you’ve created a society with no just law in it, and that certainly creates unrest.”
One by one, people stood up to speak. One of them was Khalil Collins. He’s 16 years old–around the same age Martin was when he was killed–and African American.
“I’m not sure if it makes me more sad or mad,” he said, tears streaming down his face. “To people, I just don’t matter. The fact that people could just die and not do anything about it…how is that even fair?”
A group of men also stood to announce an event spurred by Martin’s death; they’re holding a memorial on Friday on the Big Four Bridge to remember victims of violence. Rashad Mitchell says the issue goes beyond Trayvon Martin’s death, and it’s time for people to begin taking responsibility for ending violence in their neighborhoods.
“Be the change you want to see in the world. It’s time for us to start taking control of our own communities and stop waiting for the policies to change,” he said. “It’s time for us to be the change in our own communities. Stop the violence.”
The peaceful rally ended with a call to continue the dialogue about race and violence, and not to let the lessons learned from Trayvon Martin’s death be in vain.