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Trayvon Martin Protesters: Zimmerman Acquittal Illuminates Civil Rights Gap

By Alex Parker | July 14, 2013 4:14pm | Updated on July 14, 2013 5:04pm
 Hundreds of people marched in the Loop Sunday to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Protesters march against George Zimmerman verdict
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THE LOOP — As nearly 300 people marched in protest against the not guilty verdict of Florida man George Zimmerman, Airickca Gordon Taylor thought back to 1955, when her cousin, Emmett Till, became the face of racial violence in America.

"Emmett wasn't the first or the last. Here, almost 58 years later, he isn't the first, the only or the last," she said Sunday.

Taylor joined a peaceful but agitated group that marched from Daley Plaza around the Loop in protest of the acquittal of Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the fatal shooting Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

The death of the unarmed Martin and subsequent acquittal of Zimmerman (whose defense team argued that a fight with Martin left him with no choice but to shoot the teen) seemed familiar to Taylor, whose cousin, Till, was a 15-year-old Chicago teen brutally murdered while visiting family in Mississippi.

Till's mother insisted upon showing the world his mangled face with an open-casket funeral.

Just as that "illuminated the need for black America to take action," Sunday's protests are similar, and are "illuminating a new civil rights movement," Taylor said.

On Sunday, President Obama called for calm, and the Justice Department said it was weighing bringing civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

Garfield Park resident Ellyson Carter, 55, said he was angered by the verdict, reached by six female jurors. But, he said, he was glad to see people taking out their frustrations in an organized march.

"It's better than rioting," said Carter, who worried violence similar to that which followed the 1992 Rodney King verdict could occur after the Zimmerman verdict.

"It's good to see people are coming together to protest, rather than breaking windows," he said, adding he hoped to see similar action to address school closings and foreclosures in Chicago.

A man who gave his name as Marco said he was marching to question the jurors' decision.

"I'm just marching because it's absurd someone can go free for shooting someone else," he said.

As the crowd stopped at Jackson Boulevard and State Street, a speaker told the group the verdict means "It's open season on young black youth."

It's a sentiment Taylor shared.

"Right now they are calling Chicago 'Chiraq' because of all the murders," said Taylor. "We're saying it's open season on us," she said. "We've got to stop the violence in our own hometown."

— Darryl Holliday contributed reporting