Over sixty local residents attended a rally today (Thursday, July 18) which called for action and changes to the criminal-justice system including repealing “Stand your Ground” laws as well as ending “stop and frisk” and racial profiling practices. It was held in front of the New York State Office Building, 207 Genesee Street, Utica.
Speakers included the Rev. Bell, Philip Benson, and Diane Berry. The rally was organized by a coalition of community groups including the Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc., Occupy Utica, Central New York MoveOn Council, Cornhill Community for Change, Neighborhood Investment Association, and the Working Families Party.
The rally was called in light of the acquittal of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman of manslaughter and second-degree murder charges in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
John Furman, the President of the Central New York Citizens in Action, stated: “The purpose of the rally is to prevent future tragedies by promoting constructive dialogue, peace, harmony, justice, multicultural understanding, and unity. The groups representing the coalition have committed to work together to bring about economic and social justice in Central New York. We hope as a group to develop alternative policies and legislation to promote equity and fairness on both a local and state level.”
The rally organizers advocated for the United States Department of Justice to consider filing criminal civil rights charges in the Zimmerman case. At the rally, signatures were collected on petitions calling for the Department of Justice to file civil rights charges to further the cause of fairness and justice.
John Furman continued: “We continue to grieve the loss of Trayvon Martin. His family remains in our thoughts and prayers during this very hard time. We urge all who share in our nation’s values of justice to continue to practice the nonviolent teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The shooting of Travyon was a terrible tragedy and injustice, but his death has sparked passion among our nation’s citizens, particularly its youth, to work for equality and justice. We must continue our peaceful movement toward racial and economic justice. While we must accept and respect the jury’s decision under our judicial system, we want to make it clear that this is far from over. We are focusing on three important issues. One, we are asking the Department of Justice to commence a criminal investigation to determine whether there was a violation of civil rights laws. Two, we are encouraging people of all backgrounds to join us on August 23-24 for an historic effort in Washington, DC – the “Drum Majors for Justice Summit: Redeem the Dream” and the “Civil Rights Continuation March.” Three, we are asking our elected officials to carefully review and repeal “Stand your Ground” laws and end racial profiling practices such as ‘stop and frisk’.”