About 200 people gathered Monday night at 21st and Hillside to protest the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, Wichita police said.
Zimmerman is the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted Saturday by a jury after being charged with second-degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Protests and rallies across the nation have since sprung up encouraging people to speak up for civil rights.
At the Wichita rally, protesters carried signs saying, “Justice is not blind. We are watching,” “Down with racism” and “We are all Trayvon.”
As people gathered, drivers of cars and trucks stopped at the intersection waiting for stoplights to change emphatically honked horns and raised clenched fists.
“We need to come together as a community,” said Mary Dean, president of the Kansas Justice Advocate, which sponsored the rally. “We are losing our children. We need to come together as a community and as a people.
“So what do we want?”
The crowd of protesters shouted, “JUSTICE!”
Dean shouted into a bullhorn, “When do we want it?”
Djuan Wash, a native Wichitan who lives in Los Angeles, said he is a board member of the national Justice for Trayvon Martin Coalition. He was in town Monday and attended the rally.
“Time and time again we see the value, or the lack thereof, in the lives of black men,” Wash said. “For centuries we have had targets written on our backs. The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial is just another bulls-eye.
“This should be a wake-up call for how little we are valued. How insignificant we are and a call to action to change that.”
The Rev. Kevin Graham, first vice president of the Wichita adult branch of the NAACP, encouraged the crowd to go to www.naacp.org to sign a petition encouraging the Department of Justice to file hate crime charges against Zimmerman.
State Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, who represents the area where the protest was held, stood before the crowd and said, “I don’t know why you are here, but I am here because I have black sons. I am mother, a grandmother and I am damn pissed off right now.
“This should be a wake-up call for all of us. Even though my sons are grown, I am still afraid for them to walk the streets. That even happened before Travyon was murdered.
“It makes me angry. And it is time for us to start doing something about it.”