Politicians Rally Against Trayvon Martin Verdict at Union Square

Hundreds gather at Union Square rally protesting the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Hundreds gather at Union Square rally protesting the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Less than 24 hours after the controversial verdict was released in the trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year, rallies erupted across New York City.

Crowds began converging on Union Square around 2 p.m. this afternoon, chanting “No Justice, no peace,” and passing out stickers which read “We are all Trayvon.” Marvin Knight, 70, held a sign that read “A creepy-ass cracker stalked and killed Trayvon Martin.” Others carried signs featuring the photograph of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American who was brutally murdered in the 1950s.

Manhattan Borough President and city comptroller candidate Scott Stringer was among the many politicians in attendance, voicing his anger with the verdict.

“Trayvon was gunned down because of the color of skin,” Mr. Stringer said, a mass of people chanting in the background. “And because in Florida, it is, ‘Shoot first, ask questions later.’ I think there’s a feeling in this country that this has to stop, that we can’t continue discriminating against people based on the color of their skin. Someone who looks like me and my children could not even fathom a confrontation like that because it doesn’t happen in this city, or around the country.”

For Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a candidate for mayor this year, the outcome of the trial hit much closer to to his multiracial home.

“I’m here with my wife and daughter,” he told Politicker, gesturing to Chirlane McCray, who is black, and their daughter Chiara, who stood by his side. “We’re in pain, it’s very personal to think that Trayvon Martin, one year younger than my daughter Chiara here, was lost for doing absolutely nothing. He was racially profiled and he was killed for doing nothing. And that could happen at any hour on any day in this country until we stop the practice of racial profiling.”

Mr. de Blasio further contended that, with all due respect to the trial by jury system in the United States, this verdict demands intervention from a higher power.

“The verdict is unacceptable. It’s literally unacceptable. It’s a slap in the face to justice. And that’s why the Justice Department can’t wait. People all over the country are in shock this morning. How could this have possibly happened in the United States?” he asked. “The Justice Department needs to intervene.” Shortly after he made these comments, reports surfaced that the Justice Department is going to review the Trayvon Martin case.

As the crowd grew, protesters began to form a picket line and marched across the cobbled pavement of Union Square. City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has positioned himself as one of the foremost advocates of police reform issues, walked through the throng, dressed in a black hoodie–like the one Mr. Martin was wearing when he was killed.

“It’s still kind of surreal to me,” Mr. Williams told Politicker about the verdict. “But I think if you look at all the statistical data, it’s way too difficult to be a black man in America in 2013. And I think until we get that in our head, we can’t move forward on any front.”

Asked about an issue closer to home, a bill banning racial profiling, Mr. Williams said that today is further indication that the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactic needs to change.

“I think we took it one step at a time, the whole time and we’re going to continue to do that,” he said. “I feel like we will. I feel the past few weeks, the Voting Rights Act, this, are really showing us the problems that we got to fix.”