About 100 people, most wearing hoodies and some armed with packages of Skittles and cans of ice tea, conducted a peaceful protest Friday over a violent act, marching from the Hagerstown Police Department to Public Square.
They were protesting the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was questioned by police, but not charged. Martin was not armed, according to published reports.
“It’s not a race issue, it’s a kid issue because that could have been anyone’s kid,” said Brandon Butler of Hagerstown. “It’s outrageous that in this day and age people are getting away with murder.”
Zimmerman had called 911 about a suspicious person and been advised by a dispatcher not to follow him, according to published reports. That, and the fact that Zimmerman was carrying a weapon, indicated to Butler that the shooting was premeditated.
“He already had it in mind that he was going to shoot,” Butler said of Zimmerman.
Martin, who was reportedly carrying a bag of Skittles and an ice tea, was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was shot.
“He was armed with these,” Robin Stock of Hagerstown said, holding a bag of Skittles.
“The sad part is, his family is suffering,” Stock said.
“I was down in Florida last summer, and it seems like there was a lot of prejudice down there,” said Joe McPherson of Halfway.
The way Martin was dressed was no reason for Zimmerman to have confronted him, he said.
“Everybody wears a hoodie,” McPherson said.
“I don’t think it’s fair the man shot him just for walking down the street, eating his Skittles and drinking his tea,” said Dale Campbell of Hagerstown, his homemade T-shirt reading: “Justice for TM RIP.”
Mike Rizzo was also wearing a homemade T-shirt. He said he learned about Friday’s March on the Internet.
“It’s about justice,” Rizzo said.
Other people carried homemade signs, one reading: “Hagerstown Demands Justice.”
“What we hope to accomplish here today is to become one voice for everybody of every race,” said Theresa Hodges, who helped organize the march. “It’s time for justice to really be justice in every state.
“We want justice here because if this would happen to one of our children in Hagerstown, we would want someone in jail,” Hodges said.
Most of the participants were black, but there was a significant number of white marchers. As the group moved down Washington Street some passing motorists honked in apparent support.
Similar marches have been held in other communities across the nation, Hodges said.
“We just can’t just throw it under the rug like nothing happened,” McPherson said.
Earlier this month the U.S. Justice Department announced that it was conducting a review of the evidence in the case.