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Hundreds rally in Dudley Square / words by Leah E. Gallant, video by Ethan Silverstein, photos by Ali Donohue

Signs bearing the now-iconic photo of Trayvon Martin in his hoodie hovered over the hundreds who gathered in Roxbury’s Dudley Square Sunday evening to demand justice for the slain 17-year-old.

“This is about honoring the dead, but it’s also about fighting like hell for the living,” said Sublime Love, one of numerous speakers to address the crowd.

The most recent crop of Trayvon Martin solidarity rallies began when the verdict—George Zimmerman acquitted on all charges—was announced late Saturday night. Protests have been held in major cities across the US.

Speakers at Sunday’s Dudley Square protest said it was only the beginning of an organized movement for change—but just how that change would come about, or what exactly needed to change, remained unclear.

Sheila Alcide, a neighborhood resident, went to the rally “to support Trayvon Martin and every Trayvon Martin there’s ever been.” But she also came in the hopes of finding out the next step—be it a meeting, march or vigil.

“It’s one thing to rally, it’s another to make change,” said Alcide. “We need a leader like Martin Luther King—we’re soldiers, we just need someone to tell us what to do next.”

The event took the form of a speak-out session open to people of color, followed by a march. In between speakers—who ranged from a 13-year old to State Representative Gloria Fox–the crowd chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

“Both the protest and rally were peaceful.  There were no arrests or citations given,” Cheryl Fiandaca, Bureau Chief, Public Information for the Boston Police Department, said via email.

Some speakers noted that having a black man as president meant little when it came to racial equality; others maintained that President Obama had indicated he sided with the Martin family. Some speakers pointed to racism as endemic to capitalism; others faulted the criminal justice system at large.

“I think the justice system did exactly what it was supposed to do – there was a mistake only if you ignored the past four hundred years,” Khury Petersen-Smith told the crowd. “Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, but the criminal justice system killed him again, and the media killed him again.”

Others critiqued the mainstream media for failing to connect instances of alleged racial profiling and for selective coverage of the rallies.

“When you look at CNN, it’s like there’s only a few crazy black people who are angry at this,” said Alcide.

The crowd at Dudley Square was a diverse mix of race as it was in age.

“It was heartening to see how many white people there were,” said Reverend Andrea Payne, an ordained interfaith minister.

Representative Gloria Fox spoke about working with the NAACP to press civil charges against Zimmerman. The NAACP started a petition to those ends shortly after the verdict was announced. As of Wednesday morning it had reached more than a million signatures.

The ACLU has also issued a statement calling for “systemic reform”—calling on the Department of Justice to determine whether the shooting was a hate crime, in addition to urging Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act.

Fox also brought up the possibility of boycotting Florida-based companies and products to draw attention to the verdict.

“We don’t get crazy, we get busy,” said Fox.

Joanna Richardson, a resident of Dorchester, said she voted and would continue to vote.

“Our black lives are worth nothing in this country,” said Richardson, who said she also grappled with how to explain Martin’s shooting to her young son. This concern was echoed by other black parents at the rally, who feared their sons would be racially profiled.

Fiandaca did not respond to repeated questions of how the Department ensures law enforcement officers do not racially profile individuals.

“On a material plane, I don’t know if we can fix it,” said Payne. “When I look at my people, black people, we’ve done everything we can do. We’ve marched, we’ve done sit-ins, the dogs have got us, and sixty years later we’re back to square one with no voting rights.”

Payne advocated for organizing at a local level, but also a “strong spiritual force applied to issues.”

And, she said, it was a question of who was affected.

“When the white community is attacked as viciously as the black community,” said Payne, “they’ll understand what it’s really like to live in a police state.”

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