South Dade Rallies for Trayvon Martin
Story and photographs by José Pérez
A small but vocal group of people concerned about the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial congregated at an empty lot at the intersection of US 1 and SW 200 Street in Cutler Ridge last Saturday, not realizing that the verdict was several hours from being announced. Zimmerman was on trial in Sanford, Florida, accused of murdering Miami Gardens teenager, Trayvon Martin who was visiting his father in February 2012.
Wearing white “I am Trayvon Martin” t-shirts, the group of about 20 people stood on both sides of police barricades erected by Miami-Dade P
olice officers who maintained a discreet yet noticeable presence, holding signs and chanting the same slogan.
Patricia Smith, a grandmother who lives just a few blocks from the site of the rally, was one of the the volunteers. “This is my first time doing something like this.” She was motivated to come out on a warm afternoon, she said, by “a mother’s love.”
Ron Fulton, uncle of Trayvon Martin, made the approximately 45 mile drive from Miami Gardens to join the rally. “These people didn’t have to be out here,” Fulton said. “That’s what brings me out here.”
The event was scheduled a few weeks ago, before anyone had any idea that the trial would go to the jury that same weekend, said Johnny Macon, one of the organizers. “We are promoting nonviolence,” said Macon, regardless of the outcome of the trial. “We want everyone to be peaceful.”
“I hope [that] there won’t be violence,” said Enid Demps of Goulds as walked along US 1 holding a handmade sign that read “JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON.”
At a Miami-Dade Police Department briefing conducted about an hour and a half before the event started, uniformed and plainclothes police officers under a tent as they outlined plans for the event. Although plans for the imminent verdict were made by MDPD months earlier, no adjustments or additional mobilizations to the regular staffing for the area were announced. Although a police helicopter buzzed overhead just as the demonstration was beginning and some police officers were seen walking from a mobile command post each holding handfuls of plastic twist ties typically used to cuff people in lieu of traditional handcuffs, the mood in the air was far from hostile. In fact, some officers even joined in a group prayer led by Alphonso Jackson, Sr, Pastor at Richmond Heights’ Second Baptist Church.
Fulton was asked by the media about the possibility of violence in response to a not guilty verdict for Zimmerman. He dismissed such a premise. “At the onset of this, there was no violence so why would there be any now?”
Macon said that the mindset for all of those participating was what he hoped would echo throughout Miami-Dade County: “be angry but sin not.”
As long-time Miami activist Renita Holmes led a slowly growing number of rally participants in chants in favor of “No justice, no peace!” car horns honked in support of the placards and exhortations for solidarity.
Macon said that there would be “no need for a demonstration with a guilty verdict” for Zimmerman. He added if there was no verdict announced today, any future demonstrations would be held at nearby Goulds Park, just a mile or two away, in keeping with existing plans set up by Miami-Dade County.
For those present, the death of Martin and the attention paid to the trial “absolutely” could bring about positive changes in the community, said Fulton. “We’re trying to stand our ground,” said Macon. “We want everyone to be fair.”