CITY HALL — City Council members traded suits and ties for hoodies Wednesday in a powerful showing of solidarity with Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who was killed by a neighborhood watchman last month.
More than a dozen Council members filed into City Hall for their monthly meeting wearing sweatshirts and carrying packages of Skittles and bottles of iced tea, which Martin was reportedly wearing and carrying when he was shot to death on his way home from the store.
“I hope it sends an incredibly clear message to all of the authorities in Florida that what happened on February 26th was outrageous,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in an impassioned speech on City Hall steps before the meeting, where members held a moment of silence for the teen.
Wearing a red hoodie with letters spelling ‘LOVE’ over a knee-length skirt, Quinn slammed Florida lawmakers for failing to arrest George Zimmerman, the alleged assailant.
“When the police don’t arrest you, it’s as if they’re saying you did nothing wrong. And if you say what he did was okay, then you say it didn’t matter, that it doesn’t matter that that child is dead!” said Quinn, straining her voice.
“What George Zimmerman did was wrong, was a crime, and he needs to be held accountable!” she added, calling for stricter restrictions on guns across the country.
The council was expected to pass a resolution later Wednesday condemning the murder and its “inadequate investigation,” and calling for a federal investigation into the case.
The resolution also calls for an examination of “stand your ground” laws, which allow people to use deadly force in self defense, East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said.
Wearing a gray, knit hooded sweater, and waving a package of Skittles, Mark-Viverito said that Martin's death serves as a reminder of the challenges facing young, minority men across the country.
“Trayvon Martin’s senseless murder is an unspeakable tragedy, one that should serve as a reminder of how much further we as a society have to go until all people are treated equally,” she said.
“Trayvon’s only crime was being black and wearing a hoodie in a gated community."
Other members compared Martin's death to other recent tragedies in New York, including the killing of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed Bronx teen who was shot and killed by an NYPD officer in his bathroom last month.
“I’m here for for Trayvon Martin, I’m here for Ramarley Graham. I’m here for John Collado,”said Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, referring to the Inwood grandfather who was fatally shot by an undercover cop during a drug bust when he tried to intervene.
Williams and others argued the killing was the result of the same thinking that underlies the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, which allows officers to question and pat down people on the street they deem suspicious-looking.
“The demonization of young, black men of color must stop,” Brooklyn City Councilwoman Letitia James said.
Martin, 17, had reportedly been on his way home from a store on Feb. 26 and was on the phone with his girlfriend when he noticed a man, later identified as Zimmerman, following him.
Reports have indicated that Zimmerman thought Martin seemed suspicious, in part because he was wearing a hoodie in the gated community. He was shot to death during the ensuing confrontation.
Zimmerman, who has not been arrested, reportedly told police that Martin had attacked him, decking him with a punch and climbing on top of him and slamming his head into the sidewalk several times.
Martin's death has sparked outrage across the nation, leading to numerous rallies and marches.
On Sunday, worshipers at an East Village church donned hoodies in a show of solidarity with the teen, whose outerwear allegedly drew suspicions in the gated community.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has blamed the death on the hand gun industry.