In the tradition of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., local organizers expect thousands of Atlantans of all races to gather at noon Saturday for a prayer vigil and rally to protest the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial.
The Rev. Al Sharpton is organizing rallies in 100 U.S. cities Saturday because Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., was acquitted of all charges last week in the 2012 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, claiming self-defense. Martin’s parents will join the events, participating in separate cities.
Some who decry the acquittal contend it was the result of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. However, Zimmerman’s defense team did not invoke that law during the trial.
Georgia is one of several states with stand your ground laws, which allow people to claim self defense in a number of scenarios.
“This case has exposed the ever-present racial tensions that exist today,” said Markel Hutchins, a local civil rights activist. He has reached out to labor, religious leaders and media personalities to get the word out about the rally, which will be held on the steps of the Richard B. Russell Federal Building on Spring Street in downtown Atlanta.
“This community has a rich tradition of healing after a tragedy,” said Hutchins. “Because this is Dr. King’s town, Atlanta will again play a pivotal role.”
“We are not as divided as we are disconnected,” said Hutchins, who expects people of all races to attend. “As Dr. King said, ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’ “
Also on Saturday at 11 a.m., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference will have a youth forum on the issues raised by the Martin case. The event will be held at SCLC headquarters on Auburn Avenue.