Hunts Point joins nationwide rallies against acquittal in Martin killing
Hundreds marched down Southern Boulevard Monday night to join nationwide protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who had been charged with the murder of a 17-year-old black youth, Trayvon Martin, in Florida, in February 2012.
A jury acquitted Zimmerman over the weekend, drawing angry reactions from around the country.
Drivers stopped to honk in support of the marchers and residents peered out of apartment windows along the mile-long route.
While some spectators stayed on the sidewalks, others were persuaded to join the march, as protesters chanted at them, “Off the sidewalks and into the streets!”
Several local activist groups helped organize the rally, including Take Back the Bronx and Mothers on the Move.
Communities across the country have expressed outrage since the acquittal was announced, although protests have remained mostly peaceful.
Zimmerman’s defense team had said its client shot Martin in self-defense while patrolling a gated community in Sanford, Florida, but prosecutors had argued he stalked Martin, sparking an altercation before fatally shooting him.
As protestors assembled in front of the Hunts Point Avenue 6-train station in the evening, several spoke out about how the case, and the verdict, had impacted them.
“We’re keeping it in this community because our youth live that everyday, scared to go out, be in the streets,” said Jackie Castillo, a mother of two and a member of Take Back the Bronx. “They get harassed constantly by cops, so we decided to keep it here.”
One speaker, Naima Sadiq, hoped the rally would “let America know how angry, hurt, and heartbroken” people are about the outcome of the case.
“He profiled Trayvon because he was a black man,” Sadiq said. “It wasn’t because of his hoodie, it was because of the color of his skin. I say, no more Trayvon Martins.”
“Trayvon’s dead, Zimmerman’s free, that’s what they call democracy,” the crowd chanted.
The marchers proceeded down Southern Boulevard to Westchester Avenue, before returning to Hunts Point Avenue and crossing Bruckner Boulevard to the peninsula.
Mott Haven resident Elliott “Chino” Liu said the rally and a march from Hunts Point to the Grand Concourse last Saturday, would help involve communities in the outer boroughs to get involved.
“I feel the judicial system failed,” said Apostle Warren, who works with young people and homeless in the borough. “America is about justice, but it failed.”
Some protestors said that Zimmerman’s acquittal was the product of a legal system that protects law enforcement officials, even as they target young blacks.
“When I heard about the Trayvon shooting, I broke down in the same way I did when I heard about my son,” said Joanne Mickens, whose son Corey was shot and killed by cops in a Harlem restaurant in 2007. She said that although NYPD reported that he fired at officers first, witnesses reported that he was cooperating with police when they shot him. Mickens said she sees similarities in her son’s case and the Martin shooting.
“Zimmerman needs to be in jail,” she said. “That young man doesn’t have any reason to be dead today.” She hopes the nationwide protests will compel the government to reopen the Trayvon Martin case.
But protestors were quick to point out that the march wasn’t intended to target police.
“Not all cops are the same way,” said Warren. “You’ve got good cops and bad cops. We don’t want them putting everyone in the same category.”
Joe Rivera, 23, and Will Cartagena, 29, were among dozens who joined the march while walking on Southern Boulevard.
“It was great to see the community get together for a purpose,” said Rivera, a Hunts Point native who was dismayed by the verdict.
Cartagena, 29, said that the rally resonated locally.
“It’s not just about justice for Trayvon, but justice for us, as well,” Cartagena said.
As the rally wound down where it had begun, at Hunts Point Avenue alongside the Bruckner Expressway, and a group of marchers held hands in prayer, Claudia De La Cruz of Take Back the Bronx urged others to continue to mobilize against injustice.
“The call was made in the South Bronx, and people responded,” she said .