FORT WAYNE – The crowd was much smaller than organizers hoped, but they vowed it would be just the start.
This is a seed, Wayne Williams told the crowd. But look at that tree there. It started out as a seed, and look at it now.
About 50 people gathered in Freimann Square on Saturday – most of them wearing hoodies – to protest the Feb. 26 Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old carrying a bag of Skittles and a bottle of ice tea, by a neighborhood watch captain who thought he looked suspicious. The shooter, George Zimmerman, has said he shot Martin in self-defense. The racial implications – Martin was black and Zimmerman is white-Hispanic – and the fact that Zimmerman has not been charged with a crime have sparked protests across the nation and Indiana, including one in Indianapolis last week that drew 2,000 people.
Williams said that while there may be disagreements on the particulars of the Martin case, bigger issues remain.
Racial profiling exists. Laws are unfair. The status quo needs to change, Williams said.
In the crowd was Makeda Hughes, mother of Richard Rogers. Rogers and 14-year-old Sidney Wilson were killed in 1999 when Rogers was 16. On Jan. 5, Roderick Vandrell Lewis was sentenced to 130 years in prison for the crime. The case went cold until 2009 when Lewis, serving time in Oklahoma for another crime, admitted he was present when the teens were killed.
Hughes, who founded Mothers Against Senseless Homicides, said Saturdays protest was nice but needs to lead to fundamental change.
If you want to make this all about Trayvon Martin, they dont even know him. Theyre going to go home and live their lives, she said. This (culture of violence) didnt just start today. Silence is a deadly weapon.
Those gathered vowed to hold a second, larger protest at 1 p.m. April 14 and planned to start a Facebook group to promote the event, Fort Wayne March for Justice.
An earlier protest, at Memorial Park, drew about 40 people, organizer Sherry Carter said. That group is also hoping to protest again, with a focus on local victims, but a date for that event has not been set.