A candlelight vigil for Trayvon Martin just didn’t cut it for people waiting in Manhattan’s Union Square Tuesday afternoon. So commuters, tourists, and freedom fighters joined together to lead a march in uptown New York in memory of the teen whose murder galvanized the discussion of racial politics in this nation exactly one year ago.
> “I sag my pants! I wear my hoodie! With my pants down low!” the crowd chanted as they headed up 6th Avenue in an impromptu salvo against George Zimmerman and the law enforcement system. The chant was a pointed reference to the neighborhood watchman following Martin in a gated Sanford, Fla., community because the youth looked “suspicious” in his hoodie. According to Zimmerman, he shot the teen after Martin knocked him to the ground, even though a 911 operator told him not to pursue the youth in the first place.
Watch a “Mic Check” during the rally here:
Back at Union Square, the crowd prepared for the evening vigil by connecting Zimmerman’s racist profiling with police profiling.
“Every time you hear about young people being murdered, either by police or by racist vigilantes, you have people who say, ‘Okay, maybe what happened there is wrong,’” said a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).
“But you know, these youth are no good. They can’t be about [anything].’ Well, I’m here to say, You’re wrong. Yes they can! Today in Harlem, 14-, 15-, and- 16-year-olds took to the streets and said, ‘We are all Trayvon Martin! We’re not just gonna do the Harlem Shake! We’re gonna fight back!’”
“Its’ a special day for all of us to acknowledge the ill injustices of police brutality,” said Omar Piel, a member of Occu-Evolve, a branch of Occupy Wall Street that promotes outreach and actions within the grassroots movement. “We’re not gonna take anymore of the lies and the misuse of power. We’re here to represent Trayvon Martin and the rest of the angels [who] died and [got] killed by the NYPD or any other top department.”
“We organized the first outreach effort [within OWS] to support a Trayvon Martin rally and vigil, and we organized outreach this year as well,” added Sumumba Sobukwe, another Occu-Evolve member. “This [vigil] would be the second one that we’ve organized outreach for. It’s another case of taking a young Black life, where our lives are still not as valued as other nationalities in this country.”
Even though Trayvon Martin dominated mass media for much of 2012, some at the vigil had only recently found out about the case. Manissa Montour, a Harlem transplant from Long Island, didn’t know who Martin was until the morning of the vigil.
“I’m really passionate about civil rights and I want to become a civil rights lawyer in the future, so I looked up what was going on in N.Y.C. today, and I saw it was Trayvon Martin’s anniversary and they had a vigil,” Montour said. “So I decided to spend my time and come out here.”
As it turned out, Montour’s friend was also unaware of the Martin case until Tuesday.
“My friend told me and then this was like the perfect cause,” said Dana Lewis, standing near Montour. “It’s something I always wanted to do, something I want to be a part of, so why not? It’s only right. It’s worth it.”
Shortly after Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, arrived to speak, a few famous faces lent their voices to the crowd.
“We are here because it is the one-year anniversary of the fierce murder of a young man who sought nothing more than to exercise his right to breathe than to exist without the unnecessary hatred left in his wake,” said political commentator Michael Eric Dyson.
“He [Trayvon] was the victim of a hate crime. The hate of his very existence. The stereotypes that operated in somebody’s head. What we say here is that we will not allow his memory to die or his life to be lived in vain. We are here because Trayvon is us and we are Trayvon.”
And Hollywood’s finest stopped by.
“I just wanna say it’s a personal thing with me,” said Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx (pictured right), who had a moment with Trayvon’s mother at the NACCP Image Awards. “I don’t wanna share everything that was said, but she said, ‘My baby’s gone,’” Foxx revealed.
“As I stood there with my daughter — she’s 19 now — I started to think like what would I feel like if she wasn’t there with me? So I made a commitment that night, also with the help of Harry Belafonte, who spoke so eloquently that night and said, ‘We have so much influence and so much money, but we don’t do anything with it.’ I want you to know that this is a personal thing for me.”
At 7:17 p.m., the time Trayvon was officially declared dead, the crowd lit their candles and held a moment of silence in his name. Trayvon’s parents led participants in chanting, “We remember Trayvon Martin!” before heading off in to the night. But even after Martin and Fulton left, the crowd stayed on to participate in an impromptu rally in Lower Manhattan against racism and police brutality, lead by the RCP, which was a fitting way to honor a young man whose only armor were Skittles and iced tea….
See more pictures from the Trayvon rally below: