More than 100 people attended a peaceful demonstration hosted by the Cal State Long Beach African Student Union at Bixby Park on Sunday to voice their disagreement with George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The group in support of Martin discussed topics from addressing institutionalized racism to coping with the teenager’s death as passing motorists honked to show their support.
Taharka Anderson, president of the African Student Union, said that the group hastily organized the event to bring the discussion that was taking place on social media to a public space so people could come together in dialogue.
“We believe that you find comfort around those who think like you and find growth around those who think differently from you,” Anderson said. “Everyone is explaining how they feel about America, how they feel about the case, and hopefully we can end on figuring out what we can do to change institutions and really change America.”
The gathering came a day after six jurors found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the February shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager whom Zimmerman confronted after calling police about a suspicious man in his neighborhood.
The verdict led to mostly peaceful demonstrations throughout Los Angeles, though some splinter groups turned violent, storming a Wal-Mart and allegedly assaulting several people, including a television reporter and his cameraman, according to Los Angeles Times.
Many CSULB students, like junior kinesiology major Paul Hernandez, said they disagreed with the verdict of the Florida jurors.
“The jury got it wrong — [Zimmerman] killed a teenager for no reason,” Hernandez said. “He should be in jail.”
Casey Worsham, a senior interior design major, said the same.
“I don’t think it brought any justice to [Martin’s] family,” she said. “They don’t deserve what happened to their child. Murder is murder, no matter what.”
Others, like Osile Ramirez, a chemical engineering sophomore, said that Martin’s death is part of a bigger gun control problem. He said that in a legal system with laws like “stand your ground,” proper instruction and understanding of gun use is necessary.
The “stand your ground” law allows someone to use deadly force when there is “a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another,” according to the Florida law’s text.
“I think the main issue is gun control, better training and making sure people know how to use them,” Ramirez said. “The stand your ground law should be kept, but I think you should also have the training and know how to use [guns]. No one knows what happened in those few minutes between Zimmerman and Trayvon [Martin]. [Zimmerman] could have just taken it out of hand.”
Graduate student Paula Quintana said she agreed with the verdict, despite the debate surrounding it.
“[The jurors] consider many other things when they make their evaluation of what happened,” she said. “There is more than one point of view there, and they considered many things, as is their duty, to come up with whatever they think is right. It’s very hard to get something where everyone will be happy.”
Assistant City Editor Andrew Spencer contributed to this report.