MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thousands packed the People’s Square outside the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin Monday evening.
People from across Minnesota came to the rally to support the civil rights prosecution of Zimmerman in a scene similar to rallies being held around the country.
Kyle Mason, 22, says outcomes like that of the Zimmerman criminal trial seem all too familiar in the African-American experience.
“The recent events of Trayvon Martin really bothered me but they don’t surprise me, which makes it even more bothersome,” Mason said.
From the time his father was a young man or his father before him, Mason says all had to deal with being judged or criminalized because of the color of their skin.
“It’s painful but it’s nothing new, you know. It’s a tired, old story,” he said.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a University of St. Thomas professor of law, says the community must look to itself for answers, just like it did when the civil rights movement began.
“The people have to begin to understand that where there are injustices, they have the power to fight for change. But it takes persistence, perseverance and commitment,” Levy-Pounds said. “Once Rosa Parks in December of 1955 decided that she was not going to give up her seat to a white man – that energized the community.”
Rally attendees eventually marched from the Peoples Square to the Nicollet Mall.
Earlier in the day, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau urged those attending the rally to be “vocal not violent.”
“Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. I assure you the women and men of the Minneapolis Police Department will protect the rights of all citizens and their freedom of speech and public safety,” Harteau said. “We have seen far too much violence in our city. We are a community and a police department that consistently works together to create safe and vibrant neighborhoods for all people.”
In addition to Martin, Terrance Franklin was also a focus of the rally. Franklin was shot by Minneapolis Police in May.
The event is organized by the Justice 4 Terrance Franklin Committee, Neighborhoods Organizing For Change, Save The Children, Idle No More and others.
Prior to the event, spokesperson Mel Reeves says the rally has three demands: civil rights prosecution of George Zimmerman, prosecution of the Minneapolis Police officers involved in the killing of Terrence Franklin and decriminalization for youths of color.
The DOJ says it is reviewing evidence in the case to see whether federal criminal charges are warranted against George Zimmerman, who has not been seen in public since leaving court Saturday night.
His lawyer says he’s received numerous threats and has previously discussed buying bulletproof vests for him and his family as a precaution.
On Monday night, one of the jurors in Zimmerman’s trial – only identified as “Juror B37” – told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that it was the Sanford Police detective who investigated the case that made a big impression on her.
“He’s in this all the time who’s lying and who’s not lying,” Juror B37 said.
She said that he believed Zimmerman’s version of events, and said most of the jury believed it was George Zimmerman’s voice yelling for help on the 911 call.