“This whole system is guilty” and “We are all Trayvon Martin” were the chants as up to 400 people met at Westlake Park in Seattle, demonstrating their anger with the not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman.
From the moment Zimmerman shot and killed Martin – February 26, 2012 – communities across the country have become involved in the incident.
For Martin’s supporters, the case is the symbol of everything that’s wrong about race relations in America. An unarmed young man was shot and killed after being racially profiled.
For Zimmerman’s supporters, this was nothing other a man defending himself against someone who was acting suspiciously, then attacked first.
For the jury, this was a legal matter and the crime of murder or manslaughter couldn’t be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
For President Obama the case is a “tragedy” for all of America.
“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis,” President Obama said in a statement.
He continued, “We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”
For Seattle resident Sean Walker, the acquittal feels personal and like a “stab to the heart.”
“It could have been me. I could have been Trayvon. I’m black and white too,” Walker says. “I’ve had multiple times where I’ve almost had my life taken because of being noticed for my African American background – for race alone – and it’s sad.”
Walker was part of the hundreds in Seattle, and thousands across the country, who protested the verdict they believe is “an outrage.”
“It is definitely eye opening to see that a youth’s life was taken for no reason at all, for his skin color,” he says.
Lisa and Chris Harris brought their two daughters to the rally Sunday night in support of Trayvon Martin.
“My sign says Trayvon could have been my child. I want justice for my son,” Lisa says.
“I happen to have two daughters who are bi-racial. Even though we live on the Eastside in Kirkland, my husband has been racially profiled many times. Racism exists and I know a lot of white people don’t want to believe that.”
“I’ve served my country. I’m a military brat and it makes me feel like despite all that I contribute I still need to watch my back in America, in the country that I served,” Chris adds.
Harris says he’s been stopped driving near his own neighborhood before simply because he is black.
“If I was walking in my all-white neighborhood with my hoodie on, is it OK for police to get suspicious?” he asks. “Of course not, but they do.”
Lisa says the Puget Sound area showed significant compassion when 15-year-old Molly Conley was killed as the result of a drive-by shooting while she was walking with her friends in Lake Stevens.
She thinks people should show the same concern with wanting justice for Trayvon.
“Trayvon Martin was walking home the same way she was. The only difference was the color of their skin. He was a black child,” Lisa says. “A black child needs to be just as valued as a white child.”
By LINDA THOMAS