published Monday, July 15th, 2013

Chattanoogans rally in wake of Zimmerman verdict

Ash-Lee Henderson, an organizer and member of Concerned Citizens for Justice, speaks at a rally in memory of Trayvon Martin in Miller Park on Sunday in Chattanooga. Henderson was the main speaker at the rally.
Ash-Lee Henderson, an organizer and member of Concerned Citizens for Justice, speaks at a rally in memory of Trayvon Martin in Miller Park on Sunday in Chattanooga. Henderson was the main speaker at the rally.
Photo by Maura Friedman.
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    Rauelle Kelly listens to speakers at Sunday's rally in reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict. Kelly wore a hoodie and carried a sign that read "What if it was Your son?" as an homage to slain teen Trayvon Martin.
    Photo by Maura Friedman.
    enlarge photo

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    Juniper Russo (right) and her daughter Vivin Russo (left) listen to speakers at a rally in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman by a Florida jury Saturday night. Concerned Citizens for Justice organized the rally Sunday in Miller Park. Many participants wore hoodies and carried tea and Skittles as an homage to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot to death by Zimmerman in 2012.
    Photo by Maura Friedman.
    enlarge photo

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    Tamara Woodard, a member of Concerned Citizens for Justice, speaks at a rally in honor of Trayvon Martin in Miller Park on Sunday afternoon.
    Photo by Maura Friedman.
    enlarge photo

Poll
Do you agree with the George Zimmerman verdict?

Members of Concerned Citizens for Justice in Chattanooga organized a teach-in and protest Sunday in response to the George Zimmerman verdict.

A Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty Saturday night in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin last year.

"We're here today because unfortunately, as is the case in several other instances, justice wasn't served," said Ash-Lee Henderson, a Concerned Citizens organizer. The CCJ, founded in 1984, monitors and responds to concerns such as voting rights violations, injustice and police brutality.

"People in this city and across the state, even, are upset. There's a need for us to come together," she said.

About 100 people gathered Sunday afternoon at the park's northwest corner to share opinions around a megaphone before marching in memory of Martin and what his death means in Tennessee.

"We recognize that Florida and the 'Stand Your Ground' law that helped Zimmerman get away with murder is also a law that we have right here in Tennessee," Henderson said. "It literally could be a brother or any loved one of mine."

Concerned Citizens for Justice held a candlelight vigil in the same area on March 26, 2012, one month after Martin was killed. Many of Sunday's demonstrators attended that somber evening.

"Our family is back again," Henderson said. "This is not just a conversation about what we do, but a conversation about what you will do."

Henderson's mother, Tamara Woodard, spoke tearfully of her worries about raising black children.

"I have a 24-year-old son, and he could be Trayvon Martin," she said. "All those things Trayvon's mother never got to see her son do, I want to see my son do."

The CCJ had planned a meeting regardless of Saturday night's verdict. Residents embraced the opportunity to make Sunday a learning experience and a forum for interaction.

"We talk about things, but we don't really put actions behind our words," the Rev. Dwight Harrison with the Breaking the Cycle intervention ministry said.

"What are we going to do when we leave here tonight?"

Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at jlafave@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6592.

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