Protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Sanford, Florida, for the first day of the George Zimmerman trial on June 10, 2013. Zimmerman is charged in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
SANFORD, FL (Florida Today) -- To the Rev. Glenn Dames, Trayvon Martin's death has revived a necessary conversation that reaches back to the civil-rights movement.
Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot the 17-year-old Trayvon, spent
Monday inside the Seminole County courthouse, facing the start of his
trial more than a year after the deadly confrontation. But for Dames,
pastor at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Titusville,
Florida, and others, that doesn't mean the case - or the issues it raises -
are close to being over.
way I see it is it's provided an avenue, or a vehicle, for us to talk
about subjects that were probably uncomfortable previous to this
incident," Dames said. "Now this has sparked a conversation about what I
like to call the elephant in the room, ... about race and relationships
that I think had been there but just had not been discussed
Dames spent part of Monday afternoon inside the
courthouse about 25 miles north of Orlando with Trayvon's family. He's
been involved in the case since February 2012 when George Zimmerman
killed Trayvon and has organized several rallies and protests in
neighboring Brevard County. Lawyers began jury selection Monday, looking
for the people who will determine whether Zimmerman is guilty or
innocent of the charge against him: second-degree murder.
case, arguably one of the highest profile in this area, is drawing media
from around the globe. But Monday, save for reporters and a handful of
protesters, it was a sleepy scene in front of the Sanford courthouse.
15 people gathered to support Trayvon and his family. Some wore hooded
sweatshirts like the one Trayvon wore when he was killed. After lunch,
none lingered. Most sought shelter from the scorching sun and a high
near 90 degrees in trailers clustered on the outskirts of the justice
center complex. Seminole County sheriff's deputies stood watch over the
courthouse grounds, well outnumbering protesters.
At about 1 p.m.,
Warren Lundquist and Augusta Williams Jr. of Palm Bay, Fla., packed up
their folding chairs and signs. They were told they couldn't use the
bathroom at the courthouse, necessitating they leave in search of a
Williams said they were "just private citizens
expressing our rights." He said he wished more people had turned out
Monday - for either side.
"Rights are like muscles," he said.
"(If) you don't use them, you lose them. It's evident that we are losing
more and more of our rights."
He is opposed to Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground law, which
allows people use deadly force in public for self-defense without first
trying to escape from the danger.
"I don't believe it's a defense.
I think it's an offense," he said. "I believe Stand Your Ground has its
place, but not in the public section. Maybe in your home or private
Zimmerman's lawyers are expected to argue during trial
that the volunteer neighborhood watchman acted in self-defense. For
Williams and many others who gathered Monday, the case catapults issues
of racism to the forefront.
"I believe if the roles were reversed,
and Trayvon was Zimmerman and Zimmerman was Trayvon, it'd be a
different outcome," Williams said. "Everybody knows there's two
different laws: One for the blacks, one for the whites; one for the
rich, one for the poor."
About eight protesters with RevCom.us -
the "voice of the revolutionary communist party," according to its
website - marched onto the grass in front of the courthouse, carrying
signs and chanting in unison: "Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, no more
youth getting killed. The whole system is guilty."
Noche Diaz said the case is an example of rampant racism against Latino
and black youth, later calling Zimmerman a vigilante. However, Diaz did
not know that Zimmerman had been charged with murder in the case.
here to connect this struggle up with the struggle to stop, you know,
the whole generations of black youth who have been criminalized and set
up for a future of massive incarceration, treated as criminals," he
Dames also drew connections between the Trayvon case and
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy killed in Mississippi in 1955 for
flirting with a white woman. That case helped sparked the civil rights
movement. In the same vein, the 2012 death of 17-year-old Trayvon has
renewed conversations about race in the United States, Dames said.
do see some similarities with the two except for the fact that now we
have justice coming," Dames said. "Hopefully, at the end of the day,
everybody can move on, get the closure they need so badly and begin the
healing process. Healing is going to be very, very important. At the end
of the day I want to see everybody become better."