Thousands of Minnesotans took part in a peaceful demonstration Thursday evening on the Northrup Mall at the University of Minnesota to mourn the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and speak out against racial profiling and gun violence in Florida and other states including Minnesota. Organizers say this tragic murder has prompted a renewed national debate about racial profiling and gun violence. Watch interviews from the rally below:
“I knew that this tragedy had touched a nerve with me and that I wanted to do something about it.” said Jenny Belsito, the Minneapolis woman who first posted the event on Facebook. “I started the Facebook event page for a small group of friends but I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. I’m inspired by the depth of anger and compassion in our community.” Nearly 5,000 people turned out for the event.
Supporters of the event say that one reason for their strong response is that Trayvon Martin’s story resonates with local experiences. Every day in Minnesota, African-American men experience the kind of profiling and suspicion at the center of this murder case.
“When I look at Trayvon Martin,” said Sam Ndely, a University of Minnesota student and member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, “I can’t help but think that could have been me. I remember being 17 years old, thinking about college, and my future. Now, unfortunately, his future was cut short. While I’m set to graduate from the University of Minnesota this May, due to racial profiling and stereotyping, God forbid, I could find myself in a similar situation. It needs to end.”