“No justice — No peace. No justice –No peace,” the crowd chanted.
Nearly 200 students, faculty and alumni gathered together at Virginia State University to mourn the death of Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin. In what has become an explosive national news story, Martin was shot by a stranger while he was walking back from a convenience store to his fathers’s finance’s home in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.
The shooter was George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch member who was suspicious of Martin and, having contacted police via 911, began following Martin, first by car and later on foot. The two had an altercation and Martin, who was not armed, was shot by Zimmerman who was legally caring a 9 millimeter pistol.
Zimmerman had pursed Martin long after being asked to stand down by police. The fatal confrontation between the two was overheard by several witness. Phone records later showed that Martin had been on the phone with a girl just minutes before his death. He told her that he was being followed by a strange man.
A graduate of Osbourn High School in Manassas, George Zimmerman, grew up in Prince William County, Virginia and is remembered positively by friends and former neighbors. Many have expressed shock and disbelief that the George Zimmerman they knew could have been involved in the Trayvon Martin killing.
In Florida and all across the country there has been an outpouring of sympathy for Martin’s family as well as intense criticism of the conduct of Sanford police following the shooting. Calls for Zimmerman’s arrest (he has not yet been charged with any crime) have intensified as more information about the shooting incident has come to light.
The VSU rally – one of many similar events nationwide – reflects these concerns as well as, for many, a not-groundless belief that Martin’s race, gender and youth may have made him an unnecessary object of fear and derision.