It’s been more than a month since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., but large rallies over the weekend through the town of Sanford and Miami show the case currently being investigated by state and federal authorities continues to stir emotions.
In Marietta, 17 local ministers and community leaders prayed in support of the family of Trayvon Martin and called for justice in the case. But they also called for unity within black and white communities, better relationships with police, and made pleas for community-wide support of youth, particularly young black males.
“We know that injustice and hatred, and all those things have no color,” said Minister James Ray of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
“We can’t change anything but God can. So we’re not here to protest. We’re not here to be outraged. But we’re here to believe that God can and will make a difference.”
One by one, the speakers addressed the crowd that grew as the hour-long event carried on.
The Rev. Pierce Slade of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Marietta said the rally was not against any particular person, but was instead, against the spirit operating in injustice.
“God bless this family that has endured this injustice,” he said to a chorus of “amen” from the crowd. “Bless the family of the man that’s involved in this. God, we’re asking in your son Jesus’ name, that you will break his heart and deliver him from the bondage of sin and doubt.”
Marietta Councilman Anthony Coleman was also a speaker, calling for continued prayer.
The prayer rally was organized by Pleasant Grove’s women’s ministry. Cythina Watkins, director of the ministry, said she was pleased with the turnout. Local activist Missy Cook assisted in the planning.
“With everything that I saw going on around us in regard to Trayvon Martin and the situation in Florida, the one thing I didn’t see was people coming together to pray,” she said.
In attendance was Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn, who said he was there for the same reason as everyone else because he felt an “injustice” had been done.
“For one thing, I think there needs to be a very thorough investigation — and comprehensive — and at the end of it I think a determination needs to be made as to whether or not Zimmerman killed (Martin) in violation of the law or not,” said Flynn, who previously served in the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Flynn said cases in which self-defense is claimed and evidence is minimal, are very difficult for police to investigate.
“In a case where a person is claiming self-defense on the scene and there’s some physical evidence that may or may not support that, I wouldn’t rush to judgment in a case like that. Personally, if it happened here, I would ask everyone for patience — let us complete our investigation. And I would let a grand jury of citizens make the ultimate determination if there are compelling community questions about it.”
According to Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner, similar cases involving the so-called Stand Your Ground law has occurred locally.
In her remarks on Sunday, Bonner referenced the 2006 conviction of John McNeil of Kennesaw, currently serving a life sentence for shooting Brian Epp, a homebuilder whom McNeil claimed threatened him on his property. She also called for justice in last Tuesday’s fatal shooting of Campbell High School senior, Tendai Nhekairo. Nhekairo was shot while naked and reportedly carrying knives, according to Cobb police.
“You need to go to the polls on July 31, 2012, and make a difference here in Cobb County,” Bonner told the crowd. “It will give us an opportunity to have representation of people who look like us and may look at our sons and daughters, and see that they are worthy.”
Tangela Brooks of Austell said she can relate to what the family of Trayvon Martin is going through.
On May 18, 2011, her 22-year-old son, Jonathan Brooks, was shot to death inside a computer repair store on Veterans Memorial Highway at Floyd Road in Mableton, following what Cobb police believed was a verbal dispute. A suspect was later arrested.
“Trayvon’s mother — I can imagine what she’s going through,” said Brooks. “I pray for her more than anything because I know a mother’s love for her child. I don’t care how many rallies we have, trust me, when she’s by herself she misses her baby.”