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Charlotte residents protest George Zimmerman verdict

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

A day after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, about 300 people stood in the rain at Marshall Park chanting, singing and speaking about what they called an injustice on par with some of the darker moments of the civil rights era.

The rally in uptown Charlotte was one of dozens in cities and towns across the country after Saturday’s verdict. Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was shot by Zimmerman during a struggle in the Florida subdivision where the teen’s father lived. Zimmerman’s attorneys argued that he fired in self-defense.

The case quickly took on racial overtones as it gained national attention. Martin was black. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Peruvian.

In Charlotte on Sunday, the rally went on for more than two hours and continued despite heavy evening rain that left many attendees drenched. A small group of police officers watched and occasionally took pictures from a nearby building, but police and organizers reported no violent incidents.

People attending the rally held signs that said “Pray for Justice. No justice. No peace” and “Don’t let my grandson be the next Trayvon.”

Brandon Faust, 35, said he witnessed the Rodney King trial and its similar racial undertones from his hometown near Los Angeles. He held a sign that equated Martin’s killing with the slayings of Medgar Evers and Emmett Till – pivotal moments in the civil rights era.

“It’s eerily similar,” Faust said. “They thought he was a criminal just because of his clothing and the color of his skin. To see it happen again in my lifetime is a shame. It’s 2013.”

Cheryl Falzone, who helped plan Sunday’s rally, said she was “heartbroken” when she heard that Zimmerman was acquitted on Saturday night.

“To be let free, it makes no sense to me,” she said. “What child would not feel threatened if someone approached him in the dark, in the rain? What was (Martin) supposed to do?”

She noted that she has a 4-year-old grandson and a 28-year-old son living in Florida. Falzone, who identifies as black, said she worries about them becoming a target just because of the color of their skin.

“It’s a fear for me and I refuse to see this happen to anybody else’s child,” she said.

A woman who gave her name as ai elo told the crowd that they should use the anger of the moment as an impetus to work for change in the future.

“I don’t want to live in a world where I’m afraid,” she said. “So we have a lot of work to do.” Staff writer Elisabeth Arriero contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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