Hundreds at Charleston rally vow to make Zimmerman verdict a catalyst for change

Greg Franklin, a student at MUSC, said the Trayvon Martin verdict resonated with him because he and his friends have been victims of racial profiling. Buy this photo

Speakers at a vigil for Trayvon Martin in downtown Charleston Monday night vowed to make the verdict a catalyst for change.

About 300 people gathered in Marion Square for the rally. Nobody could say who organized it. People who were asked said they heard about it on Facebook or Twitter or a news report.

“What matters is that we're unified,” Thomas Dixon, a Summerville pastor and community activist, told the crowd. “It's not just Florida. We get excluded from justice on a day-to-day basis.… How many of us when we go a department store, before we get in the door, somebody is following us. … Now is the time for us to unite against the injustice of racial profiling.”

Elder James Johnson, another familiar community activist, voiced his agreement.

“In every city, black men are going through something,” Johnson said. “We need a change. We must not let this movement die.”

Greg Franklin, 22, and Danielle Wright, 23, both students at the Medical University of South Carolina, stood at the rear of the crowd holding up handmade posterboard signs

Her sign said, “Tired of being hunted? When will it end?”

His said, “Liberty and Justice for All: Some Exclusions May Apply.”

“It could have been any of us,” Franklin said when asked why he came. “I know I've been a victim of racial profiling. We've all been there. It could have been me or anybody in my family.”

Occasionally, the crowd would break out in a chant, “No justice, no peace; no justice, no peace.”

Several mothers stepped to the center to say they were worried about what might happen to their sons if they ever got pulled over for something.

After a while, the crowd started getting restless, talking over the speakers, demanding some sort of action plan.

Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, stepped forward while others quieted the crowd.

“We got to move past talking,” she said. “We have to be willing to challenge the powers that be.… We are still profiling people for no other reason than you're black.”

She promised that the vigil was just the start of a push for change.

“I hope this energizes us,” she said. “We've got to do something.”

The NAACP is planning a press conference at 10 a.m. today to talk about what to do next to keep the momentum going.



Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.

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