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Trayvon Martin Killing Sparks Strong Reaction in Seattle; Thousands March

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An estimated three thousand people gathered in Seattle Sunday to show support for the family of Trayvon Martin and to protest the killing of the Florida teenager.

In attendance was Trayvon Martin's cousin, Cedric President-Turner. He spoke to the capacity crowd at Greater Mount Baker Baptist Church, saying, "We need to march! We need to make sure things like that never happen again."

Protesters wore hoodies and carried boxes of Skittles candy and cans of ice tea. Shaniqua, a 20 year old woman from the Ranier Valley neighborhood explained the symbolism.

"That's what Trayvon was wearing and that's what he had in his hands the night he was killed,"
she said. "We are all Trayvon Martin. It could have been my brother or anyone else here who might 'look suspicious' because of the way they dress or the color of their skin."

Accusations of violence by law enforcement towards racial minorities in Seattle is not uncommon. The killing of local Native American woodcarver John T. Williams by Seattle police officer Ian Birk in 2010 sparked a series of demonstrations against racism and police brutality.

Currently, civil rights activists are demanding the resignation of police chief John Diaz. The Seattle Police Department has been investigated by the US Department of Justice due to allegations of racial profiling and excessive use of force. As a result, many residents of the city take the death of an unarmed black man very seriously.

Greater Mount Baker Baptist Church Pastor Kenneth Ransfer told those assembled for the march, "The death of Trayvon Martin is going to ignite the civil rights movement - that's what it's going to do! Today I see gathered here black folks, white folks, brown folks, people of all colors joining together - diversity! It's time to paint the rainbow for justice."

Hundreds of demonstrators were forced to wait outside the church because the building was filled to capacity. At 4:30 p.m. the marchers began to move towards Martin Luther King Jr. Park. March organizers led the protesters with the chant, "Justice For Trayvon - Arrest Zimmerman!"

At MLK Park Reverend Harriet Walden, president of Mothers for Police Accountability addressed the spectators with a story about her personal experiences while living in Sanford, Florida - the town where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on February 26 by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman. Walden says that her own sons Tunde and Omari were roughed up by police.

"It takes a village to bring up and care for a child," she said. "Our village is alive and awake and agitating for justice. We are ready to fight the long battle for freedom!"

Seattle NAACP president James Bible was nearly speechless. "Words do not do justice to the heartbreak we all feel today about what has been taken away from us during Black History Month," he said. "Racism raised its ugly head and took away a young black soul. Every mother has been shaken to the core because somebody could shoot their son only because they are brown."

Bible invoked the name of another African American man who was killed by Seattle police in 2001 - Aaron Roberts.

Seattle school district teacher Jesse Hagopian spoke about what he calls the new "Jim Crow," referring to discriminatory laws passed after the civil war in the southern US which denied African Americans their right to vote and barred them from using the same facilities as whites. His statement about Trayvon Martin's death was angry and defiant.

"He was killed because he was a young black man in America. The new Jim Crow laws profile us! Today there are more black men in prison in the US than the number of slaves that were living in this country in 1860."

A student from Garfield High School proposed that people in Seattle should wear hoodies every Wednesday as a silent protest against the killing of an unarmed man.

Cedric President-Turner relayed a message from Trayvon Martin's mother Sabrina Fulton to the marchers in Seattle:

"She just wanted everybody to know that she thanks you all for coming out and supporting this cause. Because it's not just for the death of my cousin. It's about what's going to happen in the future."