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Thousands rally in Chicago to demand justice for Trayvon Martin

By Hatem Abudayyeh |
July 21, 2013
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Thousands rally in Chicago to protest Zimmerman verdict.
Thousands rally in Chicago to protest Zimmerman verdict. (Photo: Hatem Abudayyeh)

Chicago, IL - On July 20, at the Federal Plaza here, almost 3000 people, the vast majority African American, protested in anger at the not guilty verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin.

What was billed as a vigil was anything but, as speaker after speaker called for continued struggle around the case and against racial profiling in general. "Black people all across the country are branded criminals because of how they look, talk and dress," said Randy Evans, an SEIU Local 73 union steward at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), "which is the by-product of anti-Black racism, white supremacy and national oppression in the U.S. We are always being profiled and it must stop now!"

Organized by WVON, a popular Black radio station, and co-emceed by two of its hosts, including Cliff Kelley, the "Governor" of Chicago talk radio, the protest was part of the "Justice for Trayvon" 100 city vigil called for by the Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network. Across the U.S., the Black community and its supporters raised the demand to charge George Zimmerman in federal court for violating Trayvon's civil rights in the killing. A number of prominent Black church leaders, attorneys, artists, community organizers and labor unionists echoed this demand from the stage in Chicago. Black elected officials like U.S. Congressman Danny Davis and Illinois State Representative Mary Flowers spoke in favor of racial justice as well.

But the most powerful messages of the day came from the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Erica Gordon Taylor, a cousin of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicagoan who was beaten, lynched and killed in Mississippi 58 years ago for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Taylor described how her family is still devastated by Till's murder at the hands of white racists, and then led the crowd in "No justice, no peace!" chants.

Jackson recounted that Stevie Wonder had already announced that he will not perform in any of the 20 'Stand Your Ground' states in the U.S. and then Jackson took it one step further, calling for a boycott of Florida. "No spring breaks, no concerts, no vacations," he declared in that inimitable voice, "until Florida repeals 'Stand Your Ground.'" He also expressed the collective frustration of Black Chicagoans with the school closings and mass teacher layoffs orchestrated by the Chicago Board of Education and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as the lack of job and economic development programs that has been the cause of the unprecedented shootings and killings seen recently in the poorest parts of the Black and Latino communities of the city. He concluded with an unambiguous call for the protesters to continue the struggle and "take to the streets."

Hatem Abudayyeh is the Executive Director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN, www.aaan.org) in Chicago and a member of the national coordinating committee of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN, www.uspcn.org).

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