Marching for Trayvon
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been edited to reflect that Florida's "stand your ground" law was not used in George Zimmerman's defense. An earlier version was incorrect.
New London - Every night, Diane Fisher's daughter walks home in the dark from her evening shift at a nursing home. Every night, Fisher calls to make sure she's safe.
That's because the Trayvon Martin shooting isn't something that could only happen in Florida, said Fisher. It could happen anywhere, including New London. And when she heard that George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder after fatally shooting the unarmed 17-year-old Martin, she was shocked.
"I was mad, I was upset, everything," said Fisher.
In response, she organized a march that took place on Saturday afternoon, hoping to provide an opportunity for the community to protest and discuss the ruling. Similar marches have taken place across the country since the July 13 verdict.
Zimmerman was found not guilty of the murder after he maintained he acted in self defense. Florida's self defense law, which was explained to the jury, includes a now controversial "stand your ground" clause which allows people to use deadly force without first attempting to retreat from a perceived deadly threat. Zimmerman's lawyers did not use the "stand your ground" clause in his defense. The shooting took place in a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood in February 2012.
Fisher led a small group that included some of her family and members of her church, Moriah Fire Baptized Holiness Church on Moore Avenue, from Williams Memorial Park to the Parade Plaza.
Even though it was a sunny day, several people were wearing hooded sweatshirts, as Martin had been. Others carried signs protesting the verdict.
Greg Peck, a counselor at Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School in Groton, said he joined the march because "this could happen to any of my students."
For the half-mile walk, Fisher kept the marchers chanting.
"What do we want?" she asked.
"Justice!" replied the group.
Upon reaching the Parade, where Skittles filled a large punch bowl and the Brothers of Love duet were set up to play, the group prayed and Fisher asked some rhetorical questions of Zimmerman.
"Do you really think you were in danger from an unarmed teenager when you were armed?" she said indignantly.
One marcher, dressed in a gray hoodie and jeans, was Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio. Fisher implored him to say a few words before leaving.
"I carried that sign that said 'I am Trayvon,'" said Finizio, who pulled down his hood to address the marchers. He said that incidents like the Florida shooting could happen anywhere, in cities in the North or South.
"Laws like (stand your ground) will only explode racial profiling on the streets," he added.
While other members of the group spoke, read, sang and prayed about justice, people began to trickle in from the streets to find out what was going on.
Rita Whitehead and her daughters hadn't heard about the march, but the speakers caught their attention and they hovered at the back of the group. Whitehead said she wished the event had been better publicized in places where youth spend their time, mentioning that her 17-year-old son, who has been told he looks like Martin, might have been interested in coming.
More importantly, though, Whitehead said, the community should "do something to show the youth how to protect themselves." Whitehead and her daughters agreed that it's not clear how a young person should respond if they're put in a situation such as Martin's, where someone is following them on a dark street.
Youth need better ways to communicate with police, said Whitehead's daughter, Kinde Queenan. She said she heard that Martin called a friend before the police and that she wasn't surprised, because she feels police in New London often treat her and her friends as automatic suspects.
"If you don't feel like the police are protecting you, what are you going to do?" Queenan said.
Her sister, Cabernet Queenan, agreed. "I'm 23 years old and I'd call my mom," she said, saying that the Zimmerman verdict influenced her decision.
"I'm damn sure not going to call the police now."
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