Jerald Eggleston, 10, holds a sign as he joined the more than 100 protestors organized outside the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in Houston in reaction to the acquittal of neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)
One week after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, people gathered for nationwide rallies to press for changes to self-defense laws and for federal civil rights charges against the former neighborhood watch leader.
Here in Michiana, more than 200 people poured into downtown South Bend Saturday to honor Trayvon Martin.
Folks of all different ages, races and ethnicities gathered for a peaceful rally across the street from the federal courthouse.
Some came armed with signs showing support for the slain teen, demanding justice and equality in our own community.
The crowd recited prayers and listened to a number of speakers including South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
South Bend Police Chief Ron Teachman also stopped by with a few of his fellow officers making sure no one disrupted the gathering.
“There are so many people who have so much anger and they are just astounded with the verdict that was given. We need to pray for our nation we need to pray for our people, that’s where this came from,” says Pastor Gilbert Washington.
“We call on persons to take into account the history of this county in terms of racism and injustice and all though we have come a long way, instances like the Trayvon Martin case lets us know that we have a long, long way to go,” adds Pastor Greg Haygood.
Although Zimmerman left the Florida courtroom a free man, he could face a civil suit. That's exactly what many pushed for during Saturday's rally.
Protesters also fought to abolish the “stand-your-ground” law that's currently active here in Indiana and of course Florida.
The Florida case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defense, guns, and race relations. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself when he shot Martin, identifies himself as Hispanic. Martin was black.
"It's personal," said Cincinnati resident Chris Donegan, whose 11-year-old son wore a black hoodie to the rally, as Martin did when he died. "Anybody who is black with kids, Trayvon Martin became our son."
The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network organized the "Justice for Trayvon" rallies and vigils outside federal buildings in at least 101 cities: from New York and Los Angeles to Wichita, Kan., and Atlanta, where people stood in the rain at the base of the federal courthouse, with traffic blocked on surrounding downtown streets.
Chants rang out across the rallies. "Justice! Justice! Justice! ... Now! Now! Now!" `'We won't forget." `'No justice! No peace!" Many also sang hymns, prayed and held hands.
And plenty of participants carried signs: "Who's next?" "I am Trayvon Martin." `'Enough Is Enough."
Most rallies began at noontime. In New York, hundreds of people - including music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce, as well as Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton - gathered in the heat.