Protesters rally against racial profiling and Trayvon Martin verdict in New York City

Hundreds gathered in Union Square in support of Trayvon Martin. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
Hundreds gathered in Union Square in support of Trayvon Martin.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered in Union Square Sunday to decry the racial profiling many said led to the death of a 17-year-old black boy in Florida.

“It affects our entire community,” said Kellie Knight, 43, of the Bedford Stuyvesant section in Brooklyn.

When Knight heard George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin, she stayed up all night thinking about explaining the verdict to her young daughter.

“I have to explain to my 10-year-old she might be profiled,” Knight said at the protest, tearing up. “Somebody might try to kill her just because she’s black.”

Politicians and protesters at the peaceful demonstration spoke out against the jury’s verdict, noting the decision particularly resonated in New York, over a thousand miles away.

“We know that racial profiling happens every day in the city,” said Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who was joined at the rally by his wife, who is black, and their teenage daughter.

In between cries of “No Justice, no peace,” protesters brought up NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities and the department’s controversial stop-and-frisk practice as local examples of profiling.

At the rally, de Blasio slammed Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his plans to veto a City Council bill that would allow people to file claims of racial profiling against police in state court.

“The Mayor’s in denial about profiling,” he said.

In a statement on the verdict, Bloomberg criticized Florida’s stand-your-ground law, saying such laws “inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns.”

While Bloomberg didn’t mention Martin’s race in the statement, de Blasio and other politicians spoke freely about the connection.

“Trayvon was gunned down because of the color of his skin,” Manhattan Borough President and city comptroller candidate Scott Stringer said.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams noted it was too difficult to be a black man in America—a sentiment expressed by many protesters.

“I’m very scared as a black man walking in the street,” said J. Michael King, 30, from Harlem.

Bedford Stuyvesant resident Alex Brueggeman, 24, said the verdict was “soul-breaking.”

“It’s just another reminder your life isn’t valued,” said Brueggeman, who is black.

Julian Pearson, 24, grew up in Sanford, Fla., where Martin was shot. He said similar incidents happened throughout his childhood.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said the black Harlem resident.

Staring at the throng of protesters, Pearson still expressed optimism.

“I believe now, with Trayvon placing his face on this, we’ll start another civil rights movement,” he said.

Other rallies were held on Sunday in Harlem, Borough Hall in Brooklyn and the South Bronx.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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