UPDATE: The time for the rally has been changed to 5:45 p.m. For more details and an updated itinerary, click here.
A three-day commemoration of the killing of Sanford, Fla., teen Trayvon Martin will end with a rally on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Stern Center courtyard (68 George St.). The rally was previously planned to take place at the Cougar Mall, but organizers decided Monday to change the venue.
Today and Wednesday, students and faculty at the College of Charleston will observe a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m. Brandon Upson, a senior at the College of Charleston who has worked with the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama, says the three-day series of events corresponds to the three days that Martin’s body was held in a morgue as an anonymous John Doe. Organizers have encouraged participants to wear hoodies (as Martin did on the day of his death) or black clothes. Speakers at the Thursday event will include Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott and Charleston County Council member Colleen Condon.
According to news reports, Martin, 17, was walking home in a gated community on Feb. 26 when he crossed paths with self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Eyewitness accounts vary, with some saying Martin tried to escape and others saying Martin attacked Zimmerman, but in the end, Zimmerman was seen standing over Martin’s dead body with pistol in hand. Zimmerman had a bloody nose and a wound in the back of his head; Martin had a single gunshot wound in his chest. Martin was unarmed.
“None of us can really speak on it because none of us were there,” Upson says, “but from everything that I’m reading and hearing … it really seems like Zimmerman was the aggressor and he stepped outside of his grounds and attacked Trayvon in a manner where it just went beyond self-defense.”
Because Martin was black and Zimmerman is of mixed Latino and white heritage, some commentators have said the shooting was racially motivated. Upson says he isn’t so sure, but he does take issue with the way Sanford police handled the case. When police arrived at the scene, Zimmerman told police he was acting in defense, and officers took him at his word. They did not arrest him or run a background check. Under Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, people are allowed to use deadly force when they perceive they are being gravely threatened. According to ProPublica, 24 states have Stand Your Ground laws similar to Florida’s, including South Carolina.
“Right now, the Stand Your Ground law is being used as a weapon,” Upson says. “I see it being used as a weapon of injustice, not bringing Zimmerman to bat for his actions, and it has opened up the door for people to be assaulted and even killed base off of someone’s false interpretation of self-defense.”
In addition to the planned commemorations, the College of Charleston’s student government plans to sign a bill in support of justice in Martin’s case at 4:30 p.m. today, according to Upson. A separate group called Justice for Trayvon will hold a vigil at 7:30 p.m. today in Marion Square.