Rally to remember Trayvon Martin this afternoon at Marion Square

J. Denise Cromwell waits for her chance to speak at a forum on race relations hosted by Charleston lawmakers to help prevent the kind of misunderstaning that led to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida in February.

Following a forum held Monday night, the Charleston Branch NAACP and other supporters will hold a rally Tuesday afternoon to remember Trayvon Martin and to demand equal justice for all at Marion Square at 4 p.m. The public is invited.

At the forum Monday night, Denise Cromwell of Hollywood said that after the slaying of Trayvon Martin in Florida, she booked a $300 bus trip to Sanford, Fla.

She told a Monday night forum in Charleston she was disappointed to find that only six local residents had arranged to go to Florida to show support for the Martin family. But, she said, when she arrived in Sanford, she joined “people from all walks of life” there to demand justice for the 17-year-old gunned down Feb. 26.

Cromwell urged the approximately 50 people attending the forum at the International Longshoremen’s Association Hall to get involved.

“We have to be our brother’s keeper. You can’t just sit down. You have to get up and do what you have to do,” Cromwell pleaded.

The meeting, hosted by state Sen. Robert Ford, state Rep. Wendell Gilliard and others, was billed as a forum on race relations and a tribute to Martin. The comments heard ranged from Martin’s death and its impact, to matters including gun and “stand your ground” laws, politics, jobs, pay, racial profiling, love, hate, police compliance with Freedom of Information laws to the wearing of baggy pants.

Martin was killed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who was alone and armed while on a “neighborhood watch” patrol. Zimmerman has said he shot Martin in self-defense after being attacked, but many Martin supporters believe the killing was racially motivated.

Ford offered the forum his own ideas on curbing racism and violence.

“When you come in contact with another person, show them love at all times. If you do, the world will be a great place to live,” he said.

The killing would not have happened had “they (Zimmerman and Martin) practiced love instead of fighting,” Ford said.

Janith Washington of West Ashley added to Ford’s comments: “Love is beautiful, but to me, mutual respect means so much more.”

Arthur Lawrence, a Charleston community activist, said “Stand Your Ground” laws, such as the one that Florida police said permitted Zimmerman to use deadly force against Martin, “allow anyone to kill you.

“Once you walk out of your home, they can say you attacked them,” he said.

Brandon Fish, an Occupy organizer, charged local law enforcement is ignoring Freedom of Information laws. He accused the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office of issuing statements that don’t match what was recorded on cameras.

The Rev. Randolph Scipio of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance said racial profiling “has put a lot of our young men in a dangerous position.” He said hip-hop “styles and culture,” which include the wearing of pants sagging below the belt line, is misinterpreted and draws undue attention from police untrained concerning racial profiling.

But asked by the two state legislators hosting the forum if laws are needed regarding wearing baggy pants, Scipio deferred to a “fashion mogul.”

Larry Carter Center of West Ashley carried a bag of Skittles candy to the microphone and stated it was not a “concealed weapon.” Martin reportedly had gone to the store for Skittles the night he was killed.

The Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will hold a rally for Martin at 4 p.m. today at Marion Square.

Reach Edward C. Fennell at 937-5560.