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A group of about 50 protesters crowded together Saturday on the steps of the Hardin County Justice Center singing “We Will Not Be Moved.”
The Hardin County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organized a demonstration to voice disapproval of ‘‘stand your ground” laws across the nation and the verdict in the Florida trial of George Zimmerman.
A jury found Zimmerman, 29, not guilty of second degree murder after he said he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17, in self defense under the state’s ‘‘stand your ground” law.
Since then, the national NAACP office has requested ‘‘stand your ground” laws be reconsidered nationally and that the federal Department of Justice investigate whether Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil rights.
Mostly peaceful protests have followed the verdict and locals joined them Saturday in solidarity.
Sherry Morgan of Elizabethtown brought her son and grandchildren to the demonstration to further their education about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy.
“Part of Dr. King’s message is that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and we see here in the case of Trayvon Martin that there was no justice,” she said. “An adult killed him, and there was no justice for Trayvon Martin, an innocent, innocent child.”
Morgan said it is unfortunate no one was held accountable for Martin’s death, while young men locally routinely serve jail time for relatively minor offenses, such as shoplifting and drug use.
According to the NAACP, blacks and Hispanics comprise 58 percent of the United States prison population, despite making up about one-quarter of the nation.
Those statistics compel many adults raising black children to teach them early to listen to authority figures and how to behave if they’re ever stopped by police officers, Morgan said.
“The cradle to prison to grave syndrome, it’s across the nation and it does start when they are this young,” she said, gesturing to her grandson who stands waist-high to her.
Timothy Brown, pastor of Greater Dimensions Community Fellowship Church in Radcliff, said the demonstration went beyond the Zimmerman case to address the issue of whether the deaths of people of color are being treated the same as those of white victims.
That must happen before racial disparity disappears, he said.
“Every life is valuable,” he said.
Steve Walton of Radcliff is among area residents who think that the jury’s verdict should mark the end of debate in the Zimmerman case and that race was made into an issue when there is not enough evidence to support that view.
In a counter-protest, he quietly passed out flyers with the image of actor Morgan Freeman, who is black, and a quote from Freeman that said, “How do we stop racism? Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”
He said the case was incorrectly transformed into a racial issue.
“Would they be here if Trayvon Martin had killed George Zimmerman?” he asked. “I think we know the answer to that.”
Florida’s “stand your ground” law, and others throughout the nation modeled after it, say if a person considers their life is in danger then he may take lethal action, rather than fleeing or attempting to use other non-lethal options, and cannot be charged with a crime.
Martin was unarmed. Zimmerman said the boy attacked him and slammed his head against the sidewalk.
Defense arguments centered on testimony Zimmerman was following Martin and had been advised by dispatchers not to approach him and not to follow him.
Reports in the media raised questions about whether Zimmerman’s reaction to Martin might have been motivated by the boy’s race. The judge ruled race was not to be addressed in the trial.
The Department of Justice hasn’t released a decision about whether it will take action against Zimmerman. The department announced last week that it is putting a hold on evidence used in the trial as officials determine whether there is evidence of a civil rights violation.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.