Repealing Stand Your Ground and the value of black life in U.S. discussed at 'Justice for Trayvon' rally in Tampa

The rally came a week after a Florida jury of six females acquitted Zimmerman in the February 2012 killing of Martin, which has roiled much of the black community in America. It also came a day after President Obama spoke about racial profiling and the controversial Stand Your Ground law in front of White House reporters, saying “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

"There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store, and that includes me," Obama said on Friday. He spoke about hearing the locks click on car doors while crossing the street — something the president said he experienced before he was senator — or seeing a woman nervously clutch her purse while in an elevator with an African-American man.

Tampa native J.C. Young watch the president's comments and said he truly appreciated them, particularly when Obama spoke about the racial profiling that many black men undergo.

"People have been intimidated and feared black men for years," he said after the rally ended. "I've been profiled by black people even. I loved what the president said the other night. No teleprompter. He spoke from the heart."

There were also calls to repeal the state's 2005 Stand Your Ground law, which, though officially never introduced in the Zimmerman trial, permeated the case from the beginning, when weeks went by before the Sanford neighborhood watch leader was arrested for shooting and killing the 17-year-old Martin.

Carolyn Collins of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP and Tampa Democratic Representative Betty Reed both spoke about putting pressure on the state Legislature and Governor Scott to hold a special session to repeal Stand Your Ground, though there seems to be no possibility of that happening in Florida. Scott met with a group of young protesters called the Dream Defenders earlier this week, but said he has no intention of changing the law.

Tampa based attorney K. Wright, who also helped organize the rally, called on the Department of Justice to pursue a civil case against George Zimmerman, saying that he clearly showed racial animus in stalking Martin on that fateful night last year. "We all know that if Trayvon Martin was (Facebook creator) Mark Zuckerberg, walking in Sanford, in that little community, he would not have been stalked. Okay? All the people that Geroge Zimmerman called in were black people. We know that. Were their no white people walking around out there?"

And Wright also called on others to boycott tourist attractions in Florida such as DisneyWorld and Universal Studios until Stand Your Ground was repealed.

Stevie Wonder has been one of the most high-profiled entertainers to say he won't play again in Florida until the law is repealed, and has created a petition calling for people to say they won't visit the Sunshine State as well, and some California lawmakers are advocating for their citizens to bypass Florida when considering a vacation. Upon hearing Jesse Jackson call for a boycott, Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio said that was "outrageous," while Florida's other Senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, has also denigrated the idea.

A man who said he was Trayvon Martin's cousin, Darrell Williams, said he was touched that there were people from all races present at the rally. He also used his moments at the microphone to condemn the black on black violence that is often not addressed at such rallies. "It's ridiculous," he said, adding that it was all about education in changing that deadly cycle.

Although Betty Reed was the only legislator to address the crowd, former Tampa Congressman Jim Davis and former city councilman Thomas Scott were also seen mingling in the audience at some point of the nearly two-hour rally.

click to enlarge Morris Corbin stands with Terence Henderson at Trayvon Martin rally in Tampa - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
Morris Corbin stands with Terence Henderson at Trayvon Martin rally in Tampa

click to enlarge Morris Corbin stands with Terence Henderson at Trayvon Martin rally in Tampa - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
Morris Corbin stands with Terence Henderson at Trayvon Martin rally in Tampa
  • Chip Weiner
  • Morris Corbin stands with Terence Henderson at Trayvon Martin rally in Tampa

Although there were more a dozen speakers who addressed a rally in downtown Tampa protesting the George Zimmerman/Travyon Martin verdict early Saturday afternoon, it was the last man at the microphone, activist Life Malcolm, who drew the loudest cheers.

He referenced how a Tampa white woman named Jennifer Porter ran over and killed two black children in North Tampa nearly a decade ago and never served time. Comparing that case to NFL quarterback Michael Vick going to prison for killing dogs, Malcolm deduced that black life simply isn't valued in America.

"We have to conclude that the African life in this country is worth about one dog foot can kill an African and go home, but you kill a dog, you go to prison!"

Malcolm spoke in front of a crowd of several hundred that gathered in front of the federal building in downtown Tampa, with an overflow standing across the street on the west side of Florida Avenue. Similar rallies in front of federal court buildings were held around the country on Saturday as part of the 100-city "Justice for Trayvon" vigils, which included over 50 people marching Poynter Park to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg.

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