NU holds vigil for slain teenager

Joseph Diebold

About 150 Northwestern students gathered at the Rock on Wednesday to remember Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old boy who was killed Feb. 26 in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

Martin’s shooting by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman has sparked protests nationwide and public demands for the arrest of Zimmerman, who says he was acting in self-defense. Authorities say witnesses have corroborated Zimmerman’s story that Martin was the aggressor, but protesters say that does not excuse shooting an unarmed teenager. Many protesters allege Martin, who was black, was a victim of racial profiling.

The event began with brief speeches by organizers and other students. SESP senior Tyris Jones, the coordinator of For Members Only, was the first to speak.

“It’s amazing how one life can change the dynamic of America at this point, how one life can start an amazing movement like the one that’s going on right now,” Jones said to the crowd. “We’re sending a message that we are Trayvon Martin.”

Jones then raised the hood on his sweatshirt. Most of the students in attendance were wearing hoodies, which have become a symbol of the movement to honor Martin because he was wearing one at the time of his death.

On Wednesday, the hoodie movement even reached Washington, D.C., where U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was removed from the House floor for putting up his hood while speaking.

“I applaud the young people all across the land who are making a statement about hoodies, about the real hoodlums in this nation,” Rush said. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

Among those in attendance Wednesday was Dean of Students Burgwell Howard, who also donned a hoodie for the event. Howard said he was proud to support the students who organized the vigil.

“It’s really heartening and inspiring to see when students care passionately about something, particularly something that’s beyond our campus walls,” he said. “When it cuts across all grades, all schools, that’s something really powerful.”

Many in attendance linked arms as they listened to the speeches. Afterwards, the organizers led a march from the Rock to the Rebecca Crown Center. Along the way, the group chanted “There ain’t no justice, no peace” and “Stand your ground, let justice flow.” The latter was a reference to Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which states that a person who is attacked “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”

As they arrived outside Rebecca Crown, Weinberg senior Kellyn Lewis led the group, chanting, “The people united will never be defeated.” McCormick senior Michelangelo Guerrero chimed in with a Spanish translation of the chant.

Jones said he was proud of the way the campus unified around Martin’s story.

“It’s a diverse group of people that were here,” Jones said. “Everybody can be happy with the amount of people who came out, who were actively engaged and who encouraged us and uplifted us in trying to do this vigil. They celebrated a life with us.”

The organizers then passed out candles. They lit one and relied on those in attendance to spread the flame throughout the crowd. Medill senior Dallas Wright read a list of victims of shooting deaths and the crowd responded, “Rest in power.”

Organizers and those in attendance emphasized the issues being discussed went beyond just Martin.

“We killed Trayvon Martin just as much as we are Trayvon Martin,” Weinberg junior Paul Jackson said. “We all need to be losing sleep over this.”

[email protected]