National protest over Trayvon Martin shooting reaches U campus

National protest over Trayvon Martin shooting reaches U campus

Protesters march down University Avenue in Dinkytown following Thursday’s rally. The march temporarily blocked Fourth Street and University Avenue.

Mark Vancleave

Protesters march down University Avenue in Dinkytown following Thursday’s rally. The march temporarily blocked Fourth Street and University Avenue.

Colette Bell

 

Hundreds of people wearing hoodies gathered in front of Northrop Auditorium on Thursday night to rally on behalf of Trayvon Martin in the One Million Hoodies March.

Florida teenager Martin was shot and killed while walking home from a convenience store Feb. 26. The shooter, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, said the 17-year-old looked “suspicious” and told police he reacted in self-defense after Martin attacked him.

Many consider the incident to be a result of racial profiling.

The funeral director who oversaw Martin’s burial said there were no signs of struggle on his body other than the gunshot wound. Official autopsy results haven’t been released.

Martin’s case is still under investigation, and Zimmerman has not been arrested.

Florida’s “stand your ground” law protects residents from prosecution if they defend themselves with deadly force instead of retreating, even in public areas. Similar laws are in effect in 24 other states, but Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill in March that would give Minnesotans more freedom to use deadly force in self-defense.

The shooting has sparked rallies and marches across the country and in Minnesota. In Florida, protesters claim they won’t stop until an arrest is made.

Jenny Belsito, a student at Metropolitan State University, created the Facebook event a week ago, inviting people to come together to march against social injustice.

Attendees, varying in race and age, crowded the Northrop Auditorium steps to hear speakers protest racial violence and promote unity within community. Minneapolis rapper Brother Ali attended, also wearing a hoodie.

Belsito spoke at the beginning of the event. During her speech, she paused for a brief emotional moment and regained focus after supportive cheers from the crowd.

“I was just thinking about all of the people whose lives are affected,” she said.

In addition to motivational speeches, members of the Twin Cities community recited poems and led spiritual songs.

University police worked with the event coordinators to ensure safety during the march. Overall, the gathering was peaceful.

“We’re doing everything we can to provide for success, safety and amenities,” said University police Chief Greg Hestness.

Near the end of the rally, participants marched around Northrop Mall chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

At one point, people covered the entire perimeter of the Mall.

The rally ended with men, women and children joining hands in a prayer led by Rev. Devin Miller of the Emmanuel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, a speaker at the rally. He asked for people to pray to whatever god they would like to as they bowed their heads.

After the rally, many coordinators expressed hope for the future.

“Now that it’s over, I’m going to go home and think about what I can do next and how we can keep this going,” Belsito said.

 

—Molly Novak and the Associated Press contributed to this report