Thousands Call for Equal Justice, Protest Zimmerman Verdict

A section of the crowd who participated in "A March Against Gun Violence" downtown Orlando, July 17, 2013. (Photo: WONO)
A section of the crowd who participated in “A March Against Gun Violence” downtown Orlando, July 17, 2013. (Photo: WONO)

About two thousand people flocked to Lake Eola on Wednesday and marched to the Orange County Courthouse, with calls for greater equity in the justice system.

The march came against the backdrop of the recent not-guilty verdict of George Zimmerman who was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen.

Dubbed “A March Against Gun Violence,” protestors chanted ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ ‘No Justice, No Sleep,’ and ‘I am Trayvon Martin’ as they made their way peacefully to the steps of the Courthouse.

“I am here because there is a double standard in our society that allows civilians to stop and frisk and murder with justification,” said Stephen Mikan. “It’s too much for me to bear and I need to make change peacefully.”

Shayan Modarres, one of the attorneys for Martin family and an event organizer, told the crowd that one of the ways that they could effect change and make a difference is by registering to vote.

Steven Mikan holds a sign at the "March Against Gun Violence" at Lake Eola, Orlando, July 17, 2013 (Photo: WONO)
Stephen Mikan holds a sign at the “March Against Gun Violence” at Lake Eola, Orlando, July 17, 2013 (Photo: WONO)

“We have strength in numbers, that’s the secret to our success,” he said. “And you need to vote at the state, county and local levels, ensuring that those county court judges who disproportionately sentence our youth be voted off the bench.”

Modarres also said, it is imperative that the “George Zimmerman mentality that racially profiles our youth and views them as suspicious and up to no good, be eliminated.”

Ashley Wilson of Winter Garden said, she is participating in the march because it’s just not right that “someone could die and the shooter could get off because of how the laws are written,” referring to the fatal shooting of Martin and Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal.

Wilson said she would like to see changes in the laws which allowed Zimmerman to go free. “There should be some kind of accountability; a child’s life has been taken,” she added.

Freddie Filmore, a 71-year-old pastor in Apopka said, he has witnessed the racial biases and prejudices in the judicial system for a very long time.

“I am here because an injustice took place with Zimmerman being exonerated,” he said. “And as I listened to juror B-37, there is no doubt people of color were dealt a pretty bad deal.”

Filmore said he would like to see the current laws which have expanded the use of deadly force beyond the Castle doctrine changed. “As long as the laws are the way they are, they are protecting the folks who say, ‘I felt threatened.’  This is not acceptable,” he added.

Protesters call for equal justice following Zimmerman verdict, Orange County Courthouse, Orlando, July 17, 2013. (Photo: WONO)
Protesters call for equal justice following Zimmerman verdict, Orange County Courthouse, Orlando, July 17, 2013. (Photo: WONO)

Natalie Jackson, another Martin family attorney told the crowd that today’s march is about “you and our children.” She urged people to build on the current momentum and write to Gov. Rick Scott demanding that the expanded use of deadly force laws be repealed.

Jackson said a major march is being planned for August 24, in Washington, D. C., in which children’s groups from around the country will be participating.

While today’s march was peaceful, one Zimmerman supporter, holding up a copy of the Orlando Sentinel’s ‘Not Guilty’ headline, was quickly mobbed and escorted away initially by police, to boos and calls to not be distracted from the main purpose of the event.

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