Standing in sweltering heat Saturday in front of the Baton Rouge Federal Courthouse, supporters of Trayvon Martin gave impassioned speeches to repeal Louisiana’s version of Florida’s now-famous “stand your ground” self-defense law.
“We, in the last year, have voted on some of the strictest gun laws in the entire country,” said Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, adding, “We have much work to do.”
The rally was one of about 100 held on Saturday nationwide as part of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to remember Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old who was shot to death last February by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted on all counts last week in a highly-publicized and racially divisive trial.
Several speakers addressed a crowd of about 100 gatherers on topics ranging from voting responsibilities to local violence to the flaws in America’s legal system.
“This is not a black issue, a white issue — It’s a fair issue,” said Dr. Ralph Moore, a local minister speaking about the verdict in last week’s trial.
Moore urged people to vote in upcoming elections and railed against Baton Rouge’s crime rate.
“It’s too much killing, not just Trayvon, but in the 70805 [ZIP code] and the 70806 [ZIP code],” Moore said.
Other speakers, such as the Rev. Raymond Brown, a civil rights activist from New Orleans, said he was upset with public figures such as former basketball star Charles Barkley and former President Jimmy Carter publicly supporting the jury’s decision in Zimmerman’s trial.
“It was rigged from the beginning,” Brown said of the trial, adding that the prosecution team should have never agreed to a nearly all-white jury.
Jermaine Hutchinson, one of the organizers of Saturday’s rally, spoke mostly about broader causes such as national equality.
“We want justice. We want it for all Americans,” Hutchinson said.
One man, Zora Brown, stepped up to the microphone wearing a dark hoodie with the hood pulled over his head, a style that has become a tribute to Trayvon Martin because that’s what he was wearing when Zimmerman shot him.
“It has lit a fire under me,” Brown, a local minister, said of the verdict. He added, “I’m going to be out here, doing, saying, walking, talking, praying, and stand — I’m going to stand my ground,” with emphasis on the “my.”
During the past 15 years, Louisiana law has been amended to the point that a person in his or her home, or lawfully in some other place, does not have to retreat from an aggressor who the person fears is about to seriously harm her or him, veteran defense attorney James E. Boren previously told The Advocate.
Across the street from the Trayvon Martin supporters, a small group of people gathered to voice their approval of the American judicial system.
“I support our justice system. It works,” said Leonard “Greg” Lyons, a U.S. Air Force veteran who donned a red, white and blue helmet and waved a miniature American flag throughout the rally.
Lyons said he attended Saturday’s event in support of “stand your ground” laws everywhere as an extension of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“I wanted to come out here in defense of our Constitution, this way of life,” Lyons said.
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