Abbey Sweet / Lantern photographer
Following the death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager killed by a neighborhood watch leader, Ohio State and the Columbus community joined various nationwide rallies and protests.
Most of the about 200 people that gathered on the Oval Wednesday dressed in hooded sweatshirts to make their message clear: stand up against racial profiling.
Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, was killed while walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Fla., Feb. 26. The shooter, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, said Martin looked suspicious while wearing a black hoodie, and kept pursuing the teenager after the police dispatcher told him not to, according to the 911 call Zimmerman placed before he shot Martin. He then told police he reacted in self-defense after Martin attacked him. No arrest has been made almost 40 days after the incident.
Wednesday’s rally featured a remembrance ceremony, in honor of the lives that have been lost due to hate crimes, like those allegedly committed against Martin as well as Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi immigrant who was beaten to death in California on March 21. Her case is believed to have been an anti-Muslim hate crime.
“We are here to talk about the way hatred has affected our lives,” said Thomas Lee, one of the rally’s organizers from the Ohio Student Association. “We really just want to come together to heal, as well as talk about tolerance and talk about racism in our society and how it affects us all.”
Another rally titled “Hoodies Up” took place outside Hale Hall last Friday. A number of guest speakers addressed a crowd of about 80 OSU students and community members regarding the concerns Martin’s misfortune has brought to public.
“We are focusing on not only the Trayvon Martin case, but also social justice everywhere when it comes to violence,” said LaChe Roach, the organizer of Friday’s rally. “It’s an opportunity for us to take a stance, bring our voices out and have opportunity to address issues to one another.”
Catherine Chang, a second-year in biochemistry, said she thinks many people jump to conclusions regarding the guilt of Zimmerman based on nothing more than biased, distorted information.
“I’m well aware of the history of racism in this country,” Chang said. “I just don’t think it should be applied in this instance without further knowledge that confirms it was actually a hate crime … The best we can do in this scenario is wait for a trial and wait for the verdict of that trial.”
Hafsa Khan, a second-year in international studies, said she thinks just because Martin’s case is potentially not a hate crime doesn’t mean that it was not a racially motivated act.
“I think both Martin and Alawadi cases brought great attention to not only hate crimes, but a growing sentiment and discrimination within American society that we don’t necessarily really look at,” Khan said. “Sometimes we just need to take a step back and when things like these happen, we realize they are happening and so they don’t happen again.”
Former state Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy expressed her concerns to the crowd Wednesday evening.
“I’m here to take a stance against hatred,” Kilroy said. “To say that we are all people, we need to recognize that. Respect each other’s humanity, and address the issue of continued division and hatred in our society.”