A year after Trayvon Martin’s death, about 45 people gathered at Bo Diddley Community Plaza on Tuesday evening, commemorating a life lost and demanding justice.
The event, hosted by UF Students for a Democratic Society, was an open forum.
George Zimmerman, a Sanford neighborhood watchman, told police last year he shot Martin, 17, out of self-defense.
Police’s decision to not initially charge Zimmerman for the shooting sparked nationwide controversy. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the case. His trial is set for June 10.
The event was part of a national SDS call for action to demand that Zimmerman receive a guilty verdict.
Skye Schmelzer, a 20-year-old UF history junior and one of the lead organizers of the SDS event, said Martin was an innocent life lost because of his race, and people need to remember him and continue to fight for justice.
But Schmelzer said Tuesday’s event is not just in memory of Martin.
“It’s about taking action,” she said. “When you take action you can win your demands, and that’s what we are doing.”
SDS also demanded the immediate repeal of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The law, which allows for the use of deadly force in some cases of self-defense, was upheld Friday by the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection.
Monique Haughton Worrell, a UF law professor and director of UF’s Levin College of Law’s Criminal Defense Clinic, presented a report to the 19-member task force in September that aimed to determine the impact of the law since its passage in 2005.
Worrell concluded there wasn’t enough data to find any solid connections between the law and its effect on Floridians.
“From the meetings that I attended while in South Florida, the public opinion was overwhelmingly against ‘stand your ground’ laws,” she said.
Worrell said the Criminal Justice Center and UF’s Department of Criminology are continuing to research the issue.
Gainesville Police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said GPD doesn’t take any official position on the law.
“We’re gonna enforce any laws that are on the books,” he said. “It’s not up to us to question or comment on those particular laws.”
During the rally, SDS members handed out petitions for people to sign asking state representatives to repeal the law.
Victor Yengle, a 24-year-old UF economics senior, spoke on behalf of CHISPAS, a UF immigrants’ rights organization. Yengle said he was glad to see so many people in support of the cause.
“But it also saddens me because we are people of color who still have to fight for equality,” he said. “We claim to be a nation born of equals. That’s no longer the case for Trayvon.”
Contact Alexa Volland at firstname.lastname@example.org.