Uproar On Campuses Nationwide As Justice For Trayvon Martin Remains Elusive
Trayvon Martin’s killer reportedly thought the uproar in response to the shooting “would all blow over.” Students across the country have other ideas.
Over the past few days, rallies marking the one-month anniversary of Trayvon’s killing dominated college campuses from coast to coast. Students have poured into the streets by the hundreds, their fierce calls for justice a sobering reminder of the grave injustice that has yet to be resolved.
Indeed, the passage of a full month without significant progress has cultivated new outrage and has yielded more appalling revelations about the shooting.
The Sanford Police Department tested Trayvon’s body for drugs and alcohol, but never ran any tests on shooter George Zimmerman. They then left the child’s body in a morgue for three days before notifying the Martin family of the tragedy. And, perhaps most questionable of all, officers refused to acknowledge a witness who claimed she heard Trayvon’s final desperate cries for help before being gunned down, insisting instead that the adolescent-sounding pleas came from the 28-year-old, 250 pound Zimmerman.
The number of student protests has skyrocketed since Campus Progress first reported on student activism last week, with thousands of demonstrators now expressing disgust over the unfairness that has been widely perceived as race-based.
Protests were first held in Florida, where the shooting occurred, and have since branched out in all directions. Students at Louisiana State University, West Michigan University, the University of Pennsylvania, and dozens of other colleges have organized protests calling for justice for Trayvon Martin. And many more are expected to hold protests in the coming days.
In larger cities like New York and Washington D.C., students collaborated with those at other nearby schools to form more prolific demonstrations in the streets. In the latter city, for example, students from Georgetown University, Howard University, and George Washington University were joined by civic leaders and other concerned citizens to form a crowd more than 1,000 strong on Saturday.
Poignant chants and signs such as “We Are Trayvon” and “Am I Next?” were commonplace at the protests. Many demonstrators wore hooded sweatshirts and carried bags of Skittles to reflect their solidarity with Trayvon, who was carrying a bag when he was killed.
Many of the demonstrating students agree that the tragedy warrants, at the very least, a renewed conversation about race in America.
“The killing shows that racial stereotypes still exist and that we must continue to stand strong against them,” Ernest Owens, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, told Campus Progress before attending a rally in Philadelphia. “As an African-American male, I feel that I—or any of my friends or family—could be the next Trayvon.”
Arguably the most important question posed at these protests was from an unidentified Georgetown University student speaking at the rally in Washington D.C.
“What are we gonna do when the Facebook hype ends?” the student fervently asked the packed crowd in front of Washington’s city hall. “What are we gonna do when the Twitter hashtags stop being about Trayvon Martin?”
Certainly, a time will come when #Justice4Trayvon is no longer trending on Twitter and the Facebook group demanding Zimmerman’s arrest is a memory.
Those who have protested over the past few days—students and otherwise—have done a great service by making their voices heard and compelling authorities to take action.
But the true character of our generation will be tested not by what we do now, but by what we do when the dust settles. Because even if George Zimmerman is brought to justice, the past few weeks have highlighted inequalities at the foundation of our society that must continue to be confronted.
Graham White is a journalism intern for Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @GrahamWhiteNY.
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