By Fernando Figueroa
March 27, 2012
Gainesville, FL – Over 200 students, community activists and supporters rallied and marched from the University of Florida campus to the downtown FBI office on March 26, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Organizers of the rally brought forward two main demands: Arrest George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin and fire the police involved in the case for obstructing justice and covering-up the truth.
Protesters gathered in the blazing sun near Turlington Plaza on the University of Florida campus to begin the event and listen to speakers demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Several local media stations filmed the activists and aired some of the more outstanding speeches. Speaking about the racism and oppression faced by African-Americans, Chief Steward Jose Soto of Graduate Assistants United said, “We are not one nation as our pledge suggests. We are many nations. We gather here today, just as we rallied for Kofi Adu-Brempong two years ago this month, to demand justice and self-determination for African American people.” Kofi Adu-Brempong is an African Graduate Teaching Assistant shot in the face, inside his own home, by a racist campus cop. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organized a campaign that led to the racist cop’s firing and a settlement for Adu-Brempong.
The rally chanted, “Arrest George Zimmerman! Justice for Trayvon!” Next the students marched to the nearby Institute of Black Culture. There, African American and other student speakers emphasized their demands for the killer and the police to be brought to justice in the Trayvon Martin case. The activists and their allies began a mile long march to downtown Gainesville to deliver their demands to the local FBI field office. Gainesville Area SDS member Skye Schmelzer led several chants: “Jail the killer, fire the cops, without Justice, we won’t stop!”
Despite the intense hostility and best efforts of local law enforcement, the 200-strong chain of people stormed onto University Avenue, blocking an entire lane of traffic. Cops shouted at the protesters to get back onto the sidewalk, but the angry crowd ignored them. At one point, two police cars tried to block the road by turning sideways in front of the march, but Gainesville Area SDS member Conor Monroe bravely jumped out to keep the road from being closed. The police cars came close to trapping Monroe’s leg in between the bumpers of their cars, but the way forward remained just large enough for the crowd to push on through the police cars.
After the mile-long march was over, the crowd arrived at the foot of the FBI Field Office in Gainesville. The main doors into the building were locked, but members of Gainesville Area SDS found a secondary entrance. A ten-person delegation made their way upstairs to the FBI Field Office, which was located inside a Wells Fargo bank. Meanwhile, the crowd chanted, “No justice, no peace, no racist police” outside.
Inside the FBI Field Office, the delegation demanded a meeting with a member of the FBI. FBI officials demanded that the delegation leave the building and claimed that the police were on their way. “The police followed us here as we marched in the streets, and they’re standing around outside, what do you mean they’re on their way? We want a meeting to present our demands to the FBI,” SDS member Cassia Laham shouted back.
Standing their ground, the activists pressured the FBI officials into taking their list of demands up to their superiors before they were satisfied enough to leave the building. The organizers called upon the crowd to continue the struggle to win justice for Trayvon Martin by joining them in Sanford, Florida on March 31 for a mass demonstration in the town of the Martin’s shooting.