LORAIN — Nearly 100 people turned out in Veterans Memorial Park on an overcast Saturday afternoon to voice their concern over the acquittal of George Zimmerman on murder and other charges in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Imam Paul Hasan said that before the rally he and other organizers were being told that the event would turn into a riot of angry black teenagers. The reality was quite different with the multiracial crowd gathering at the end to form a prayer circle.
“People believed it was not going to be peaceful,” Marcus Atkinson, another organizer, said after the event. “They misunderstood.”
The rally was held the same day as numerous other events across the nation to protest Zimmerman’s acquittal. His legal team argued during the closely watched trial that the block watch member had been defending himself after Martin attacked him.
Critics of Zimmerman have argued that he followed Martin because he thought the black youth was out of place in the gated community and created the confrontation that led to Martin’s death. Martin was famously carrying a bag of Skittles, which many in the crowd also carried Saturday.
Many of the speakers urged the crowd, which included one white man wearing a gray hoodie and a sign that read “I am suspicious,” to try to work toward racial equality in the criminal justice system.
“We have a system that is broken, a system that has been broken, but it’s a system that can be fixed,” Bishop Dennis Johnson of Fairfield Christian Center said.
Ricky Johnson said he has numerous relatives who could easily have been Martin, a theme many black leaders, including President Barack Obama, have used when discussing the case.
The key to fixing the problem, Ricky Johnson said, is for society to come together to address the challenges in the country.
“Instead of saying it takes a village, we have to become the village,” he said.
Angel Arroyo urged the crowd to act locally to help rein in violence in Lorain County. He also told them to call Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer and ask him to put pressure on the Lorain Police Department to solve a number of unsolved homicides in the city.