Protesters gathered in Harvard Square on Thursday to speak out against the handling of a killing in Florida which has sparked a nationwide outcry.
Since the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, a growing coalition has demanded that George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man who admits to the shooting, be charged with murder. Zimmerman has not been arrested.
Protesters who assembled in front of the main entrance to the Harvard Square T station on Thursday said that the case indicates broader problems in American race relations and legal processes.
“The overwhelming majority of incarcerated people [in this country] are African-American or Hispanic,” said Mark Francis, a junior at Emerson College. “We have to assume people are profiling minorities.”
Protesters with bullhorns led the crowd in call-and-response chants like, “What do we want?” “Justice!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”
Others shouted, “We are Trayvon Martin.”
Zimmerman, who has been alternately described as white and Hispanic, has maintained that he acted in self-defense when he followed and shot the unarmed black teenager.
The case has drawn national attention to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows a person who believes himself to be in deadly danger to defend himself with lethal force rather than fleeing from the threat. Zimmerman has claimed to have acted under the conditions of this law.
“To allow people to chase someone and shoot them and get away with it—that’s an unfair law,” said Maia J. Cogen, a student at Harvard Law School.
Cristina M. Rodrigues, another law student, said that Zimmerman’s actions should not be protected by the Florida policy. “Even with the [Stand your Ground] law, you aren’t allowed to follow someone and claim self-defense,” she said.
Thursday also saw a demonstration called the “Million Hoodie March” in New York City to demand Zimmerman’s arrest. The Harvard Islamic Society has planned a support table in front of the Science Center for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday intended to draw attention to the case.
The police chief overseeing the investigation into the shooting stepped down Thursday amidst the outcry, and Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed a prosecutor to investigate the murder the same day and declared his intent to appoint a committee to examine the Stand Your Ground law.
The U.S. Department of Justice has also opened an inquiry into the shooting.