When I found out earlier this week that there was going to be a rally and march right here in New York City in support of bringing Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman to justice, I knew I had to attend. Sure, I’d have to bring my daughter with me, but she’s used to participating in political and social activism by now. She’d be fine being the only kid there, or so I thought.
When my daughter and I arrived in Union Square tonight, just before Trayvon’s parents spoke to the steadily growing crowd, I didn’t see any other children, as I’d suspected. But then suddenly I caught a glimpse of a mother and child and I introduced myself. Then I saw another small child about my daughter’s age. Then some toddlers wearing hoodies with masking tape on the back that read “Suspicious?” It became clear to me that people hadn’t brought their kids to this gathering out of necessity like I had, they brought them to prove a point: that any parent could be Trayvon’s parents, and any child could be Trayvon.
When the speeches were over and a boisterous prayer for justice prayed, hundreds of people began to take to the streets. The NYPD was in plain sight and I was nervous: would there be a mass arrest? We were walking in the road, on 14th Street. We stopped traffic. As in, our bodies, maybe a thousand of us, swarming the cars and city buses that just so happened to have been there, waiting near 14th and Broadway. By the time we got over to 14th between University and 5th, the police were directing everyone out of the road. I began to hear the familiar Occupy cry of, “Whose streets? Our streets!” The police wouldn’t budge. I told my daughter we had to get to the sidewalk in case they started arresting people in the road. Along the route we talked about what happened to Trayvon, and several young people flashed impressed smiles at me. One young woman even said, “You’re a good teacher. I like that.”
I ran into my friend Brent just before we rounded the corner to head up 6th Avenue. He said, “I feel weird saying this, but I’m disappointed there aren’t more white people here.” I agreed. It’s not that white people were noticeably absent from the march, but a bit under-represented I’d say, especially given that while we were walking as a threesome Brent grabbed us some literature that I later noticed ended in a bit of Occupy propaganda. I gave it away to another friend I ran into who (shockingly) hadn’t heard about Trayvon’s murder, but it said something to the effect of, “African-Americans who care about justice for Trayvon have a lot in common with the young white people attending Occupy Wall Street.” The sentiment is a bit awkward because bringing up race seems unnecessary, but I understand. Occupy did support the Million Hoodies March, some members even sporting logos that read “Occupy Justice.”
As the group walked back east toward our starting point, I came face to face with Franchesca Ramsey, who made a splash with her viral video Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls. Franchesca and I have friends in common but we’ve never met properly, and I didn’t want to hold up traffic to broker a formal hello. Besides, at that point my mini-activist was begging me for pizza, and I had to oblige. We quickly made it back to the park where my engaged 6-year-old called her dad so he could hear the chants of, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” Or, as one woman I stood by at one point responded, “Yesterday.”
As Katherine Stone noted in an earlier post, the Change.org petition calling for federal and state officials to investigate Trayvon’s shooting and charge George Zimmerman has reached nearly a million signatures, and may grow to be the most signed petition the site has ever hosted. The rally and march in support of Trayvon’s family was extraordinarily peaceful tonight, though I did see one arrest. A white male, in his 50′s or 60′s, was put in the paddy wagon and did not resist. He told the crowd his name was Charlie Breitbart. Police were unable to tell me why he was arrested.
Enjoy these photos from the rally and march. They really capture the spirit of the evening and the hope that Zimmerman will be brought to justice soon:
Main photo Carolyn Castiglia