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Grand Rapids joins 100 protests in 100 cities for Trayvon Martin

By Tom Burke |
July 21, 2013
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Protest in Grand Rapids, MI demands justice for Trayvon Martin.
Protest in Grand Rapids, MI demands justice for Trayvon Martin. (Photo: Barb Smoyer)

Grand Rapids, MI - Protesters gathered at Rosa Parks Circle here, July 20, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Led by mothers with their children, they marched to the Federal Building with signs proclaiming, “Justice delayed, but not to be denied - for Trayvon,” and a few African American children held signs “I am Trayvon."

Marching past the Calder Plaza, the protesters chanted, “The people united, cannot be defeated!” They arrived at the corner of the Federal Building on Michigan Street, led by Kenya Smith. Smith is the organizer who put Grand Rapids on the map of 100 protests in 100 cities. She led the chants and invited up the speakers, an array of African-American leaders in Grand Rapids.

Asadada, a legal and mental health expert, spoke about the truth of the Trayvon Martin murder and the undisputed and incontrovertible facts, “Trayvon Martin a child, Trayvon Martin unarmed, Trayvon Martin did nothing wrong, was not in any place he should not have been, did not challenge or confront anyone to start some mess. Trayvon is dead. The person who shot and killed him is known to be George Zimmerman. Everything else is a matter of discussion and persuasion. Those facts remain. An unarmed and innocent child shot down and killed. Everything else they want to talk about and they failed to talk about that.”

The other speakers denounced the racist justice system, the systematic targeting of African-Americans for imprisonment and the need to rebuild the movement for freedom. Kenya Smith then read out an inspirational speech from her co-organizer Chaka Holley, beginning with the famous words written by German Pastor Neimoller after the defeat of Nazi fascism in 1945:

“First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Smith then led a chant, new for most of the protesters, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop!”

Kenya Smith continued with Holley’s words, “It is a wonderful thing for people to rally together to express their desire for justice, their desire for Black life to be valued, their desire for our children to not have to walk in fear on their way to the store. It is beautiful for Grand Rapids citizens to gather in solidarity with others around the country to bring attention to the injustice in our justice system and to the effects of racism, racial profiling and white supremacy in the U.S.”

Towards the end of the rally, a large group of young people arrived, swelling the numbers to over 100 protesters. Duke Turley of African-American youth organization Team All Da Way said, “When Trayvon Martin was stalked and murdered by Zimmerman, we organized 1200 people to march and rally on March 31 last year. We are here today again to demand justice for Trayvon Martin because the system did not work. We need to stay active and for young people to come out until we change this system.”

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