Amanda Pierce / Lantern reporter
Some Ohio State students, staff and faculty and members of the Columbus community circled the center of the Oval Tuesday to mourn in silence the death of Trayvon Martin and demand an arrest and fair trial for his killer, George Zimmerman.
The protest, which was organized by OSU Stand Your Ground, was part of the national movement, National Day of Justice for Trayvon Martin.
Martin was a 17-year-old African-American killed by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman while walking home from a convenience store Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman followed Martin home and telephoned police with concerns of a suspicious-looking teen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. After an alleged altercation, Zimmerman killed Martin, telling police it was an act of self-defense.
The protest coincided with what had been the day a Florida grand jury would begin deliberations on whether to arrest Zimmerman for Martin’s murder, though the decision now rests with State Attorney Angela Corey, according to CNN reports.
The protest began at exactly 2:26 p.m. to symbolize the month and day when Martin was killed. The protest lasted 44 minutes to represent the number of days that have passed since any formal arrest has been made, said Dawn Miles, an organizer of the event and a Ph.D. candidate in history.
What began as a circle of about 70 people slowly grew to a crowd of about 140 people, locking their arms in solidarity. The movement began and ended in silence, with time in between for people to share their comments.
“This looks absolutely beautiful right now,” said Martez Smith, a third-year in social work and sexuality and publicist for OSU Stand Your Ground. “That despite race or gender … we stand united.”
James Hayes, a fourth-year in political science, said as an African-American male, he was just as at-risk as Martin was, the moment he put on his hooded sweatshirt before the protest.
“People are trying to tell us this is not a race thing … they’re attempting to mask the truth,” Hayes said. “(This is) someone assuming someone’s a criminal because of how he looks and how he’s dressed.”
Smith said the protest attempted to bring awareness to the need for diversity and social justice on campus and on a larger scale, though ignorance, hate and racism have been obstacles in achieving it.
“The images that have been used on a national scale (the spray-painting on Hale Hall) I think make Ohio State look bad … but that’s not what we’re about,” Smith said.
Adwoa Asante, a fourth-year in philosophy, said the Stand Your Ground movement started with the death of Martin but addresses a broader problem.
“It’s about all these people that lose their lives for hate,” Asante said. “We need to remember that we are all connected … we are all united in humanity.”
OSU students have responded to the alleged hate crime of Martin’s death, as well as other hate crimes, with a number of protests, rallies and sit-ins, including the “Hoodies Up” protest for social justice at Hale Hall March 30, the rally against hate crimes on the Oval April 4 and the Friday sit-in at the Union to demand that a hate crime alert be issued in response to the words “Long Live Zimmerman” spray-painted on the west wall of Hale Hall one day prior.
Zimmerman launched therealgeorgezimmerman.com Monday, asking for donations from supporters. At one time, the site featured a large image of the spray-paint on the wall of the Hale Center, but the site and its content frequently change. The site’s validity was verified by Zimmerman’s lawyer Monday night, and his lawyers have since withdrawn from the case.
President E. Gordon Gee acknowleged the site, tweeting from his account, “As our community unites against hate speech, disturbing news about Hale Center image used as fundraiser.”
The circle on the Oval during the act of silence was broken twice – when one person biked through it and another walked through it. Miles said these were examples of some of the resistance the Stand Your Ground movement has faced and will continue to face.
“It hurts that somebody doesn’t respect what we’re doing and doesn’t respect what people feel,” Miles said. “We know we’re going to face setbacks no matter where we are. … We know that not everyone can agree. … We just want to have a conversation where there’s no hate.”
Miles said the OSU Stand Your Ground movement will continue to peacefully demand diversity and inclusion versus tolerance, and said she hopes to involve more members of the OSU student body.
“If we put everyone together, we have more power and more ideas to move forward to bring justice,” Miles said.