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Locals rally at City Hall following verdict in Trayvon Martin case

July 18, 2013
<b>About 300 people gathered at a rally in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder case at City Hall in Springfield on July 15.</b><br> Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

About 300 people gathered at a rally in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder case at City Hall in Springfield on July 15.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

By G. Michael Dobbs


SPRINGFIELD — Local activists and elected officials called for a peaceful reaction to the decision in the Trayvon Martin case as well as a renewed sustained effort to address issues of race and civil rights in the region at a rally conducted on the steps of City Hall on the evening of July 15.

Some people carried signs, while others lit candles as the sun set commemorating the 17 year-old. As the evening progressed more and more people came to the rally, swelling to about 300 participants.

“Trayvon is my son and he is all of our sons,” said Chelon Brown, a mother of three boys and the founder of AWAKE, one of the organizers of the rally.

She urged the crowd to “stand up for our children.”

Ida Flynn of the Springfield branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said in answering remarks that Martin was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was “where he was supposed to be.”

She continued, “I don’t care what they call it ... this young man had the right to be alive today.”

Flynn asked the audience to sign an online petition asking the Department of Justice to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman at www.NAACP.org. She also asked them to attend a protest scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 20 at the federal building on State Street, part of a nationwide effort.

Flynn, like other speakers, called for a peaceful response. “One of the things we could do is to remain calm,” she said.

State Rep. Benjamin Swan, who is a veteran of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, said, “I know there is a great deal of anger among us but what you must understand is how to direct that anger so it lasts more than one night, more than one month and one year.”

Swan called for people to become involved in current civil rights issues.

“There is no one with power who is willing to give it up freely. They pretend to make adjustments, but they are thinking about another strategy … If nothing else happens out of this case we need to organize,” he stressed.

State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera said she closely followed the trial of George Zimmerman. “We have the best justice system in the world … but I don’t always agree with the outcome,” she added.

To try to understand what had happened, Coakley-Rivera said she repeatedly turned to her faith.

“The only thing that can take away the pain of the Lord,” she said.

Like Swan, she called for people to do more than attend a vigil or a rally, but to become involved in issues.

“We all have to do our part,” Coakley-Rivera said.

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