LANCASTER – Protests, marches, and vigils were held across the country Saturday (July 20) as part of a nationwide effort to press for federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Locally, a diverse crowd of about 100 area residents gathered in front of Antelope Valley Courthouse for a Community Prayer and Call to Action. The hour-long event featured nearly a dozen speakers from all walks of life with similar messages of peace, understanding, unity and justice for all.
Organizers also encouraged youngsters to get involved in the newly established Antelope Valley Youth Ambassador Program, a grassroots initiative created to channel youth energy towards a constructive agenda that includes efforts to lower crime, improve education, increase volunteerism and help senior citizens.
“If anyone fails to realize why I’ve organized this event, I will leave you with this quote, ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world,’” said organizer Veronica Fields.
Highlights from the event
“The time has come for everybody to recognize the fact that all men were created equal,” said Lancaster Mayor Emeritus Henry Hearns, whose speech was punctuated by applause throughout and shouts of “Amen!” Hearns cautioned the crowd against using violence to resolve perceived injustice, and urged attendees to strive for love and unity instead. “Vengeance does not belong to us, but justice does,” Hearns said.
Latinos have suffered oppression similar to the African America community, therefore Latinos were standing in solidarity with the African American community, said Xavier Flores, of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Flores (left) spoke of human rights activists César Chávez and his nonviolent efforts to change the world. Brandon Zavala (right) quoted biblical scriptures in stressing the need to overcome prejudice.
Sixteen-year-old Alexander Rodriguez, Community Director of the OUT Project, said he’d recently decided to become an equal rights activist for the rest of his life. He urged the crowd to trust one another, practice tolerance, and take comfort in knowing that human beings are naturally good.
Johnathon Ervin spoke about accountability in the African American community. “When an African American male dies and no one cares, it’s because so many of them die,” Ervin said. He gave statistics about crime and the Black community and brought his two young sons to the podium to bring the point home. “One of us three, the statistics say, will be in the system – the correctional system,” Ervin said. “We’ve got to change that. This is why we’re here today.”
Local NAACP Vice President Waunette Cullors urged the audience to sign an online petition demanding that the Justice Department file civil rights charges against Zimmerman. The petition can be accessed online at naacp.org or by texting the word “Justice” to 62227, Cullors said.
Other guest speakers included Daivion Boutte, Carrie Allen who recited a poem, Lancaster Human Relations Tapestry Commissioner David Paul and Lancaster Neighborhood Vitalization Commissioner and Nation of Islam member Stan Muhammad. At the conclusion of the event, attendees held hands, formed a circle in prayer and sang “We Shall Overcome.”
For many more pictures of this event, visit our facebook page.