July 18, 2013
By Charlene Muhammad
LAWT Contributing Writer
Mass demonstrations erupted across the country after an all-female, nearly all White jury, acquitted George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Black teen Trayvon Martin.
For more than three days at Sentinel press time, protests shut down freeways, train lines, and major intersections. Some demonstrations occurred in Leimert Park and several points throughout the Crenshaw District.
Civil rights groups, clergy, community activists and citizens young and old gathered in the park for three days to pray for Trayvon Martin’s family, to comfort those still grieving his death, and to calm those angry by Zimmerman’s acquittal on July 13.
Many who gathered also mobilized peaceful marches through the community. On July 14, demonstrators moved from Leimert Park, down Crenshaw Boulevard, all the way to the Santa Monica (10) Freeway. By the time the marchers made it to Crenshaw and LaBrea, they’d been walking for nearly four hours, one told the Sentinel.
But at a July 15 prayer vigil and rally, some broke off into rioting until police declared an unlawful assembly at approximately 9:30 p.m. He didn’t have specifics on which stores were vandalized but 14 people, including seven adults, were arrested, according to a Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson. In the future, there’ll be stiffer requirements for protests, including having to apply for permits, he told the Sentinel.
People worldwide like those who gathered in Leimert Park, are still asking the question, despite the not guilty verdict, how could the jury, after hearing Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin and pursued him, believe his claim he feared for his life.
Through tears, shouting, and heavy hearts, they sought and offered solutions to these types of tragedies.
“What we need now is prayer,” said Reverend K.W. Tuloss, president of the National Action Network’s Los Angeles Chapter. He prayed profusely for Trayvon Martin’s family, for peace and for unity.
William Smart, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, declared, “As frustrated as I right now, representing a peaceful person like Martin Luther King, as frustrated and as mad as I am right now, I see this as a wakeup call. We have to let everybody know that the value of Black boys is important to us ... From this point on, no other Black boy is going to be killed, by anybody!”
Nation of Islam Student Minister Tony Muhammad, who was out of state when the verdict came down, addressed Justice for Trayvon Martin during his July 14 lecture at Muhammad Mosque #27.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said if you want to strike a blow to White America, they will believe you when you can establish peace in your hood,” Min. Muhammad said. He said Blacks send out mixed messages when they stand idly by while Black youth kill each other.
He expressed if Trayvon Martin had walked into the “wrong” neighborhood in L.A., he might have been profiled and killed just like many young Black men and boys have been in the community.
“We want them to give us justice but we don’t want justice from each other,” Min. Muhammad charged.
L.A.-based legal analysts, like community lawyer James Simmons, argue the verdict doesn’t change the reality that the criminal system is willing to believe that violence against a Black youth is justifiable using an unreasonable interpretation of the evidence.
“The conviction is based on the unreasonable belief that this young teenager, who did not have a history of violence and was engaged in totally legal and peaceful behavior, would somehow turn into the criminal that only existed in the fantasy world of George Zimmerman,” Atty. Simmons stated.
He said it’s the same type of injustice that allowed Judge Joyce Karlin to give Soon Ja Du, the killer of 16-year-old Latasha Harlins, probation and community service. The store owner falsely accused the teen of shoplifting and started a physical altercation that lead to Du shooting her in the back of the head, Atty. Simmons recounted.
“The impact of local demonstrations will have an effect of both galvanizing local movements for justice and serve notice that the type of judicial and prosecutorial half-stepping demonstrated in Sanford is not tolerable there, here or anywhere is in this country,” Atty. Simmons told the Sentinel.
Many worried that demonstrations would erupt into localize violence as in the landmark Los Angeles Rebellions of 1965 and 1992, he noted. And they had not materialized on any level until July 15.
Focused demonstrators days before chose to get authority’s and others’ attention by stopping traffic on main thoroughfares in the Crenshaw District, Hancock Park and Hollywood as well as the Santa Monica Freeway and the Metro Rail Expo line, they reminded.
“These demonstrations have also been energized and led by youthful leaders unknown by the media and politicians. This is a very good development that will bring fresh energy, tactics and strategies to the movement for true justice and against its racist and reactionary administration,” said Atty. Simmons.