The Rev. Samuel McKinney marched on Washington 50 years ago. But Saturday, wearing a maroon Morehouse College hoodie and carrying a cane, McKinney stayed behind as protesters unfurled banners and marched down Stewart Street.
McKinney was among the speakers at a “Justice for Trayvon” rally of 200 to 300 people in front of the federal courthouse downtown. Similar events were held at some 100 cities across the United States.
Speakers in Seattle, including a cousin of Trayvon Martin, drew historic parallels to condemn the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Martin’s death, saying the struggle for equality continues.
Pastor emeritus of Mount Zion Baptist Church,
McKinney told the crowd the country had progressed since the days of segregated lunch counters, but Zimmerman’s acquittal was a step backward.
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“We may not have to deal with Jim Crow, but we have to deal with Jim Crow’s grandson,” he said to a crowd that clapped and yelled in support. He urged the demonstrators not to let civil-rights achievements be reversed.
“I ain’t gonna take it,” he said. “I’ve come too far, and I ain’t gonna turn around.”
A diverse collection of other local groups participated in the rally, ranging from the United Black Christian Clergy to city-council candidate Kshama Sawant and the Transit Riders Union.
Regional NAACP president Oscar Eason Jr. called the recent public outcry a rebirth of the civil-rights movement, even though Martin’s death was tragic.
“The NAACP has been re-energized because of this conflict.”
Eason said he hopes it will spur broad interracial dialogue.
“We need to discuss race,” he said. “Every time we have an opportunity, we back away.”
A new generation of civil-rights leaders took part in the demonstration, such as Cedric President-Turner, Martin’s cousin and a sophomore at Pierce College in Tacoma.
During his speech in front of the crowded courthouse garden, he invoked the murder of young African American Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955, and Till’s mother’s search for justice.
President-Turner said he has been amazed by strangers who walk up to him at rallies with hugs, saying he and his family are in their prayers. His cousin’s death opened his mind to how prevalent racism in America still is, President-Turner said, and how much work remains for the United States to become an equal nation. He wants to work as a “catalyst to bring more awareness and help bring change.”
An event planned for Monday evening at Westlake Park by Revolution Books will stage a theatrical re-enactment of the killing of Martin with a flashmob dressed in hoodies and signs reading “Zimmerman,” “police” and “justice system.”
Anna Boiko-Weyrauch: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org