As we reported last night, the Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin was underway promptly at 6:00 p.m. Approaching Union Square from Fifth Avenue, a steady murmur grew into a lion’s roar as hundreds of outraged protesters amassed on the park. Chants of “A people united will not be defeated!” eventually segued into “We are Trayvon!” and “Prosecute Zimmerman!” to reflect the immediate catalyst of the rally: the unprovoked murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and the fact that his murderer, George Zimmerman, has yet to be prosecuted for the crime. Here's Animal New York's great video of Trayvon's parents addressing the crowd:
Other rally speakers questioned the morality of the United States criminal justice system, wondering what the outcome might have been had Zimmerman and Martin’s roles been reversed. The protesters also blasted the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices and the subsequent racial profiling and privacy rights violations, and invoked Ramarley Graham, a young black man gunned down in his own home by an NYPD officer last month. Councilman Juumane Williams declared, “my blood is no cheaper than anyone else’s here.”
Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, told the crowd that “if Trayvon was alive he would be on these steps rallying for justice with you.” As one speaker put it, "We’re not asking for an eye for an eye. We just want an arrest. We just want justice."
Amid shouts of “No justice, no peace!” and packages of Skittles (Martin was carrying Skittles at the time of his death) pitched by protesters, we spoke with 27 year old school teacher Naquana Kitt. She said she was moved to attend the rally in part because her younger brother was shot and killed. “Injustice was done against another young person. Anyone can be a victim. My students wear hoodies. It could be any one of them.”
Following the rally, the crowd marched west along 14th street, headed uptown towards Madison Square Park, and then winded its way back to Union Square, as Occupy Wall Street sentiments started to blend with Trayvon chants. Although the rally was partially spearheaded by the Occupy Wall Street movement, it was clear that some perceived the OWS protesters as attempting to co-opt the march. Shouts of "Stick to the cause!" could be heard as some protesters became visibly angered by the divergence of focus.
But the diversity of the crowd, as well as its size, was impressive. By 8:00pm the police had managed to corral the group into two separate segments to deter further mobilizing. The rally dissipated in relative peace, with some leaving the area and others remaining with the Occupiers in the park, where another tense standoff with the NYPD loomed.