NORWALK, Conn. – George Zimmerman’s gun license, the history of black Americans and the need to unite were among the topics of speeches given Sunday in front of Norwalk Police headquarters to about 70 people who had walked several blocks to get there, carrying signs and chanting about justice.
The march and rally were inspired by the “not guilty” verdict awarded to Zimmerman in the Sanford, Fla., death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from Miami who was walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood at night in the rain.
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“No matter what, we must stand for justice,” said the Rev. Nellie Mann, who organized the event. “Laws must be changed. They must be changed. Because one child is murdered, it affects all of us. It affects each one of us.”
Others spoke of the emotions stirred in the African-American community.
Attorney Darnell Crosland, president of the Norwalk branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), referred to comments made by President Barack Obama this week.
“The president makes it clear that this particular verdict affects all us, black and white, but it affects black people in a specifically sensitive way because of the history that we face in discrimination and injustices,” he said. “I also like to highlight the fact that this particular month has been a trying one for black people. We just got a setback, the voting rights act. … then the verdict comes right behind that. That’s a lot to take. So let’s put this in context.”
Crosland said he had been in Sanford and had gone into the courtroom right after the verdict was announced. He spoke with anger, saying that he had been involved in murder trials and never seen ballistics and evidence like that in the Zimmerman trial.
“Never have I seen it like that,” he said. “The gun was actually on his chest.”
Zimmerman might have had a license to have a gun, he said, but he didn’t have a license to use a gun to protect a neighborhood. That kind of license is reserved for police officers, he said.
“Zimmerman wasn’t trained,” he said. “If you’re walking through a neighborhood with a pistol, you’re supposed to be only protecting yourself, not protecting your neighborhood with your unlicensed gun. Unlicensed because of the use. It’s not because he didn’t have a license. The use was unlicensed. You can’t walk through a neighborhood protecting the neighborhood with an unlicensed gun. That’s not what that’s for. … For that reason alone we need the federal justice government to take that gun away.”
He also defended the right of African-Americans to be upset about the verdict.
“Make no mistake about this, don’t let anyone make the nonsensical argument that because we have challenges in our own community that we’re not supposed to get upset about the Zimmerman verdict,” he said. “It’s just as nonsensical as people who make the argument that there’s no more racial issues in our community because we have a black president.”
The Rev. Jeffry Ingraham spoke of solutions, of doing things to help young people. A free summer enrichment program is being held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday this week and next in Ryan Park, he said. For information on the free NEON-sponsored program, call 203-853-4139. Summer enrichment program
Sherelle Harris spoke of the context for the emotional outcry.
“On the one hand, I say we can’t use history as an excuse to stay where we are, but on the other hand, no one has the right to ask black people to deny their history,” she said. “Let us look at the history of the slave ships, the history of the civil war and the history of the civil rights movement. Let us reason why we are standing here today. … This is not a one-sided racial issue, there are things that need to be corrected on all sides.”
Two Norwalk Democratic mayoral candidates appeared at the event. Former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling was at Calvary Baptist Church, where the march began, before leaving to make it to a prior commitment, organizers said. District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra spoke to the crowd at the police station, referring to his childhood in New Haven.
“It’s about time that all of us have an opportunity to succeed,” he said. “It’s about time that all of us have an opportunity to grow up from wearing the baggy jeans, and have people around us who love us forever.”
He took note that it might have been politically risky, given the controversy involved, but he said he felt he had to be there.
“If you feel that you represent the entire community, you should be willing to stand up and state your opinion out there,” he said after the rally. “Norwalk is a very diverse community and emotions are high. Community leaders in our community organized this event and I was happy to be out here today.”
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