Atlanta joins national protests against Zimmerman acquittal
Ken Watts | 7/15/2013, 1:42 a.m.
Chanting “Rise up!” and “No to the new Jim Crow!” hundreds of demonstrators in Atlanta’s West End Park Sunday vented their frustration over the acquital of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin.
The protestors followed up the rally with an impromptu march from the park to the Atlanta Unversity Center campuses and on to Downtown Atlanta via Peters street.
“It’s not just Black People, It’s not just White People. It’s about a human rights issue,” said Monica Simpson of Atlanta over a bullhorn to the cheering crowd. “The rights of someone were taken and we have to stand up as the human race to make sure these things do not continue to happen to our children.”
It was one of hundreds of weekend protests to erupt across the country and the second in Atlanta in the wake of the July 13 not guilty verdict in the racially charged trial of Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman confronted the 17-old Martin in a 2012 incident after alerting police to a “suspicious person.”
Martin was on his way back home after running an errand to neighborhood store.
The emotional but peaceful gathering near the West End Park basketball courts featured no marquee speakers, just everday citizens sharing their thoughts as the crowd in the park steadily grew to about 500.
Selena Ayers of Birmingham said the verdict hit home.
“I have a brother who could have been Trayvon. I have a cousin who could have been Trayvon,” Ayers said.
17-year-old Thomas Reaves of Lithonia, wearing a hoodie similar to the one Martin was wearing the night of his death, urged kids to get involved. “Black, White, Asian or Latino don’t be afraid to stand up and make your feelings known. We have to stop this,” he said.
Earlier, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed condemned the verdict, saying it reminded him why public safety is his number one priority.
“The genuine tragedy of the Trayvon Martin case is that a mother and father lost their son senselessly.
"I find it troubling that a 17-year-old connot walk to the corner store for candy without putting his life in danger. I find it even more troubling that a citizen could not see an African-American youth without immediately concluding that he was up to no good,” Reed said in a written statement.
4th District U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson said people of good conscience have a right to be angry over the verdict but should not allow their anger to overcome their obligation to work towards a country where equal rights, prosperity and justice for all are real and permanent.
"The justice system, no matter how much one may disagree with the Zimmerman verdict, has worked. I firmly support the principle of the presumption of innocence -- the burden of proof being on the prosecution with proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt being required for the jury to convict," Johnson said. "We must now work to educate and register citizens to vote. Laws like “stand your ground” and voter ID are public policies written into law by misguided legislators, who need to be replaced at the ballot box."