For a second rally in two weeks, protesters gathered in Washington on Saturday to pull on hoodies and demand justice in the shooting death of Florida teenager Travyon Martin, which has sparked a federal investigation and nationwide outrage.
Martin was fatally shot in February as he walked toward a home in a gated community while wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
His shooter was volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who has said he acted in self-defense and has not been charged.
Humam Abdul Malik of Southeast Washington, who marched Saturday with his 13-year-old son, said protests would continue in the District and across the country until Zimmerman is tried before a jury.
“It ain’t a race issue; it’s a justice issue,” Malik said. “Let him go to court, and if he’s innocent, let it be proven there. That’s the system.”
Hundreds of people joined in Saturday’s march, which stretched nearly a city block at times.
The protest was largely organized by Howard University students, who said they want more than Zimmerman’s arrest. They are seeking reform of the justice system that so far has allowed Zimmerman to walk free — and that has resulted in what they said is the racial profiling and wrongful deaths of too many young black Americans.
“We want an arrest, but that’s not where it’s going to stop,” said Corryn Freeman, a Howard University senior who helped organize the march. “George Zimmerman is just a symptom of the big problem. Racism is the big problem.”
Upon reaching Freedom Plaza, the marchers sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called “the black national anthem,” and watched a reenactment of Martin’s shooting and its aftermath by Howard’s theater group, the Howard Players.
The mother of 26-year-old Emmanuel Okutuga, who was fatally shot by a Montgomery County police officer last year, clutched a photograph of her son. “This happens too often,” she said. “There are too many Trayvons out there.”
More than a dozen speakers, many of them local university students and activists, urged members of the crowd to harness their anger and turn it into durable change through community organizing and advocacy.
“It’s time to stop complaining; it’s time to get to work,” said Rashiah Greene of the National Black United Front, a national coalition of activists.
D.C. environmental justice advocate Kari Fulton said marchers need to start lobbying politicians and lodging public comments with local, state and federal agencies.
“We gotta take our hoodies to the Hill,” she said. “Don’t let this be the day that you put your right fist up, and then you walk away.”