Rain and cold weather couldn’t deter the hundreds of people participating in the “March for Justice” on Saturday morning in St. Albans.
The event was organized by Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and the Commission on Social Action to protest fatal gun violence that has taken the lives of black men including Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and most recently Trayvon Martin.
The Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Fla. has has sparked a national outrage among the black community over the alleged shooter’s, George Zimmerman, possible racial motives behind the killing and how the case has been handled by the local police.
Starting at Thomasina’s on Linden Boulevard, members of the community marched to St. Albans Park, shouting along the way “S.O.S. Save Our Sons!” and “No Justice, No Peace!” among many chants.
Many donned hoodies, which Martin was wearing the day he was killed in Florida while others wore large pins depicting his face, while others carried posters and pictures of victims of gun violence.
“I am outraged, angry, frustrated, disgusted and disappointed that here in America in 2012 we still have to come out and call for justice for the senseless killing of another person of color,” said Jamaica’s NAACP president, Leroy Gadsden.
Gadsden criticized the Sanford Police Department because of its “inaction” in the case. “We’re going to make sure we can do all we can do that justice is brought about,” he said.
Even though the Martin case was the catalyst of the march, many who came out wanted to see an end to the deaths of young black men.
“I’m really tired of the young people dying,” said Desiree S. from Rochdale Village. “They need to be taught how to handle themselves on the street.”
The Rev. Fred Jenkins, a pastor Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Jamaica, is particularly troubled about the dangers his children face on street.
“I have teenage children and I don’t want them to develop an attitude of having to walk down the street and just being guilty of being black and gunned down because someone decides it’s a self-defense issue,” Jenkins said.
Young people who attended the procession were encouraged to go to the front and lead. When the marchers gathered at the park, a moment of silence was held for Martin that was broken by youths who yelled out “I’m Trayvon Martin.”
Community leaders offered suggestions on what could be done to prevent future incidents of violence to black youths. “We have to train our communities to start treating our children and letting them know they’re jewels; that they need to be respected,” Comrie told the audience.
“We’re out here because you’re fed up. We’re out here because we’re tired of young people dying for no reason.”
He said that as Zimmerman was as determined to go after Martin “we have to be as determined to make sure that we empower our young people.”
Lawmakers blast bill
The Trayvon Martin shooting has put “Stand Your Ground” laws under a national microscope. Currently 21 states have the law or similar ones on the books.
One lawmaker is hoping to add New York to the list. State Sen. George Maziarz, a Republican who represents an upstate district, is the main sponsor of Bill S.281, also called the “Stand Your Ground Bill.” It would allow a person to use deadly force if the “presumption that a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm exists under certain circumstances.”
Opponents of the bill were outraged, including state Senators Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) and Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica). Both signed a letter requesting Maziarz to immediately withdraw the “dangerous bill.”
The letter references the Martin shooting and the possible situations the law could be applied to including “disputes between neighbors” and “road-rage incidents.”
Smith feels the bill will do no good. “You can’t tell me that if I think I’m being threatened that I can just pull a gun on you and there is no injustice behind it,” Smith said. “We’ve got to do better.”