Zimmerman verdict elicits disappointment, sadness, resolve in Greensboro protest

Ashanti Sanders signs a poster in solidarity with Martin.

William Robinson speaks about the acquittal.

Tigress McDaniel gives a legal seminar.
Upwards of 150 people gathered in front at February One Place in front of the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro on Sunday to show support for slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in the wake of a jury's acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Protesters carried signs reading "The life of a child should be respected" and "Stop or my Skittles will shoot." They chanted "No justice, no peace; no racist police" and "Brown, yellow, black or white; same struggle, same fight."

Jermaine Taylor came to the protest with his wife and three children, including a 2-year-old son.

"Just to know I'm raising a young, black male, it feels like my son is not safe," he said. "I don't feel safe with him being by himself. I feel that the justice system failed us [by] not allowing all the trial evidence to be heard. I don't know what guilty looks like. [Zimmerman] stereotyped [Martin] as looking like he was up to no good. I don't want my son to be on the bad end of looking guilty."

Early in the protest, which began at 5 p.m., a group split off to march to the Guilford County Jail, accompanied by Cakalak Thunder Drum Corps. With their return, the crowd in front of the civil rights museum swelled to about 175. Police allowed the protesters to occupy February One place because there was not adequate space on the sidewalk to accommodate them. Protest leaders cautioned against spilling into Elm Street.

Several people took turns speaking about the meaning of the verdict, in which a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of all charges in the killing of Martin on Saturday night.

William Robinson said the killing of Emmett Till, a black teenager lynched by a white mob in Mississippi in the 1950s that resulted in acquittals, set the stage for the verdict in the Zimmerman case. 

"We know better," Robinson said. "It seems wrong because it is wrong. When they killed Trayvon Martin, they killed a part of me."

Tigress McDaniel said she worries about how her 3-year-old son will be perceived by people like George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who stalked Martin because he thought the young man looked suspicious. Martin was wearing a hoodie.

"I put my son in a Gap hoodie; I didn't even know anything about this," McDaniel recalled. "And then the case was publicized. The cutest little red hoodie. And when I heard about this, my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach.

A former law student, McDaniel wound up giving an impromptu legal seminar.

"It will come to a point when thing like this will become default," she said. "'Oh, that's just 'stand your ground.' How does that make sense? He came into this space."

Alisia Pacheco was walking downtown when she stumbled on the rally. McDaniel's talk resonated with her. Why couldn't Trayvon Martin stand his ground? McDaniel asked.

"The police already said, 'Stand down,'" Pacheco said, alluding to a police dispatcher's instructions to Zimmerman to not follow Martin.

Ed Whitfield tied the events in Florida to the community's treatment of young black men in Greensboro. He said young people in Smith Homes, a public housing community, "are treated as if they have no value." Relating the racial profiling of Martin to a curfew imposed on young people in Greensboro in the wake of public disorder, Whitfield said adults have a responsibility to ensure that there are wholesome activities for young people.

"Every one of these kids we've lost is a loss to all of us," Whitfield said, "because we lose their creativity. We lose their energy."

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