By Charles Hallman
Demonstrations took place from coast to coast since the Zimmerman acquittal was announced last Saturday. Many Blacks have strongly reacted to the news, and expressed for many, a continued disappointment in the U.S. justice system that seemingly fails for Black people, especially when they are the victims.
“The justice system is unashamedly and unapologetically racist,” believes Rev. Brian Herron, pastor of Zion Baptist Church. He spoke to the MSR before he gave a prayer to start Monday’s rally before an estimated crowd of, according to organizers, between 3,000 and 4,000 people at the Hennepin County Government Center.
“When I first heard the verdict, I was very angry. I was very upset and it affected me,” notes Alyia Waddle, Minneapolis. “Today I don’t feel as violent because that is not the answer.”
Monday’s rally “can be the spark, the wake up that we so badly need to come together as [a] community,” added Herron, who said he also stressed this during his sermon the day after the Zimmerman verdict. “I preached about this, and basically talked about that this is the time for us to come together as a community, and to continue the fight for struggle, for justice,” recalled the pastor.
“I am hoping that we bring a resolution and change in the justice system. I don’t agree with the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law [in Florida] at all,” said Karen Locke of Maplewood, Minn. She and her son Andre were part of the protesters.
Mike Dred of Minneapolis agreed with Herron: “It is still America and it shows that racism is alive and well in America.” On last Saturday’s verdict, “I’m disappointed but I am not surprised,” admitted Dred.
“I’m supposed to be here with my people, elbow to elbow and cheek to cheek, side by side,” proclaimed local poet Tish Jones, who served as the mistress of ceremonies, but recited a short poem for the crowd as well. Some of the speakers also made references to Terrance Franklin’s suspicious death allegedly by city police supposedly after he shot two Minneapolis police officers in May. That case remains unsolved.
“We preach forgiveness and grace in our pulpits on Sunday morning,” declared New Creation Church Pastor Rev. Paul Slack, “but what we preach in the streets is that all of us deserve fair treatment under the law in this city, in this state and across this country. We’re out here right now so that we can begin to get it right now.”
“The only way we are going to get it is that we demand it,” continued Slack. “We get out into the streets, show up in the courts and show up at the legislature and demand that they treat us right. For Trayvon, yes! For Terrance (Franklin), yes! For every one of us who are here now, and for the countless youth whose names we don’t know but who have been criminalized. We demand justice for them.”
“I wish we can get justice for both Trayvon Martin and Terrance Franklin,” said Rae-Rae Patterson of Brooklyn Center, who also spoke to the crowd.
Two sisters, 11-year-old Anna Cardon and Madelyne Rendon, who soon will be age 13, both of Minneapolis, also spoke: They told the crowd they are worried that they might not grow up to be adults. They talked to the MSR afterwards.
“I want to be a teacher when I grow up, and it’s kind of hard because I don’t know if I can do it because of all of the problems that we’re having,” admitted Anna to the MSR after their brief speech. “It made me mad because whenever a White person kills [someone of color], they don’t get a trial.”
Added Madelyne, “When I saw [President] Obama made it to be president, I thought why can’t there be a Native American president or another colored person be president. It’s kind of hard to do what you want because you can’t walk down the street and go to the store without worrying about [something bad happening to them].”
“I love my kids and worry about their safety on a daily basis,” said Nick Muhammad, a father of four, including two teenagers, of last Saturday’s verdict. “The last thing I need is a verdict that puts fear into my children and fear into my community.”
He told the crowd that “a racial justice declaration” is needed and later explained to the MSR that other groups, i.e. the GBLT community’s concerns have been addressed, and he believes it is way past time for Black people’s concerns to also be heard. “I’m willing to work with my people to get direct on what we want. Our interests need to be dealt with.
“The recipe is come in, wait and we’ll get to you,” concludes Muhammad. “I’m 35 and my community still is in the same exact problematic state since I was a child.”
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