A crowd of 2,000 people filled Hart Plaza in Detroit Monday evening to participate in a national day of protest over the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old was shot by a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. The watchman, George Zimmerman claimed the killing was in self-defense and has not been charged with a crime by local authorities.
Rallies seeking justice for Martin took place Monday in Florida, Iowa, Texas, New York, Maryland and several other states.
Members of the crowd wore hooded sweatshirts, a now familiar symbol in the Trayvon Martin story, as a statement against profiling. Many carried a diverse variety of signs, some making direct reference to the Martin case ("Arrest The Triggerman Zimmerman"), and others touching on broader themes ("I'm A Black Man Who Cares!")
The Detroit demonstration addressed not only Martin's death, but also the rash of recent killings of young people in the city, including the gunfire-related deaths of 12-year-old Kade'jah Davis and 9-month-old Delric Miller .
"So many kids have died in Detroit in the last few months it's not even believable," said Detroiter Brianna Parker, 23. "I hope by coming down today to protest the death of a teenager, it's going to help bring awareness to people around the country."
Detroiter Joslyn Smith, 57, a retired principal, attended the demonstration with her husband William and her two grandsons. "This death is not unique," she said, speaking of Martin."This happens all the time. It's time to stand for justice, not just in Martin's death, but in all the deaths of young black males going on."
The Detroit event included speakers from the Detroit NAACP, UAW Local 600, the anti-crime group Detroit 300 and many other organizations.
Lynn Wiggins, 32, a community organizer who lives on Detroit's east side said he was upset about the killing of a young African-American man at a BP gas station in Detroit earlier this month.
"I was kind of disappointed they didn't talk more about Michael Haynes, the young man that was killed at the gas station," Wiggins said.
Haynes was allegedly shot by a gas station cashier in a dispute over the price of a box of condoms.Protesters have since gathered at the site to demand the gas station's closure.
"It's not a different problem," Wiggins said. "It's all the same relative problem -- genocide going on -- whether it's our people killing each other or outsiders killing our people."
Thomas Washington, 41, an out-of-work electrician, had not heard of Martin's death but said he was very concerned about Haynes' killing. He hoped the rally would have an impact on violence in Detroit.
"Not everybody out here is violent, but some people get pushed to violence and hopefully the people who are doing the pushing and pulling will stop," he said.