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'Travesty of justice': More than 250 people attend candlelight vigil for slain Florida teen

By Sarah Thomas sthomas@news-journal.com
March 28, 2012 at 11 p.m.


Some wore hoodies. Some wore suits and ties. Others wore T-shirts. But in the crowd of more than 250 people that filled Heritage Plaza on Wednesday night, most wore heavy hearts for the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

"We're out here supporting Trayvon and his family tonight," said Longview resident Elaine Alexander. "My prayers go out to the Martin family, and I think justice should be done. This child's life is lost, wasted."

The candlelight prayer vigil, which Longview City Councilwoman Kasha Williams said was borne of the idea the community wanted to come together and pray, also gave voice to many feelings about injustice, unity and protecting America's children.

"My heart is full tonight," Williams told the crowd. "I am proud to be here tonight."

Just before dark, the candles were lit as the crowd gathered in the center of Heritage Plaza to unite in prayer for what Pastor Robert Evans of Bethel Temple said was not just for the Martin family.

"We are here tonight for not only the family of Trayvon Martin, but we are here tonight for our entire family. Our entire nation. Our entire country. We are here for our city," Evans said.

After the vigil, Evans said he was pleased with the turnout.

"I'm glad to see a mixed crowd. We weren't here to protest or rally. Our nation is in trouble. We need the presence of God," he said.

Longview resident Laura Maglaris said she wanted to participate because Martin could've been anyone.

"My first thought when I heard about (Martin) last month was that this could've happened to anyone's child," she said. "My second thought was that there was no arrest and apparently no investigation. What if this had been a white boy and a black man as the shooter? It takes me back to an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere."

Most of the crowd's sentiments appeared to be centered around the notion that the Martin family is not getting justice.

"I am here because these people lost their 17-year-old son to an act of violence over a month ago and nothing has been done," said Longview resident Kathy Somer. "We are not a vigilante nation. We are a nation of law and order. This is a travesty of justice. Race, color has nothing to do with why I'm here. It has to do with somebody's child was murdered."

Authorities have said Martin, 17, was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who told a Sanford, Fla., 911 dispatcher that the teenager seemed suspicious and threatening.

Knowing Martin was wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and iced tea at the time of the shooting was enough to make some question the safety for their children.

"I have two grand kids who wear hoodies, and my son wears a hoodie. I get worried now," said Longview resident Gloria Guy. "I can't even wear mine anymore because when I do, I think about Trayvon, and it sends a chill down my spine."

Others weren't as fearful as they were outraged by what the Rev. Tony Lewis, pastor of New Beginning Faith Ministries, deemed the "targeting of our youth."

"This is a rally for a cause, for what is going on at this time. This was unjustified. To see that this young man was chased and gunned down by a man who wasn't even supposed to have a gun is an outrage," Lewis said. "(The vigil) makes a statement about what is happening in this nation. For too long we have been targeted, run over and overlooked. This young man was gunned down in the dark, but it has ignited a spark across the United States."

Lewis said it isn't just black people who feel the way he does.

"Justice is justice, and a lot of white people are outraged too," he said.

The Rev. H.C. Rockmore, of Red Oak Missionary Baptist Church, told the crowd he wasn't there to sit and listen.

"I am here because I am sick and tired, and tired of being sick and tired," Rockmore said.

The crowd erupted in agreement.

McKenzie Stephens, 16, of Gladewater, said he came out to stand against people judging others for the way they look.

"I feel it is important for me to be here because you shouldn't be judged for who you are or what you wear," Stephens said. "A young man was killed for nothing."

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