Community urged to ‘be peaceful' at rally for Trayvon Martin in Gainesville


Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 10:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 10:38 p.m.

Pat McCollough is a retired Marine sergeant major and ordained minister who worked for both of Barack Obama's campaigns for president.

But when she closed her black jacket around her American flag T-shirt and pulled up the hood, you might not have thought of those accomplishments if you had seen her on the street.

And that was McCollough's very visual point at Saturday's Community Rally for Peace and Justice in the name of Trayvon Martin hours before the trial in Trayvon's death came a close in Central Florida later Saturday night.

“When I walk in here looking like a regular thug or whatever, and you see other ministers with their suits on, you recognize people by the way they dress. That's what happened to Trayvon Martin,” she said. “He was profiled. Let us not profile each other. Let us come together as a community regardless of race, religion, party affiliation. When this verdict is read, we will be peaceful.”

The rally drew about 50 people to Bartley Temple United Methodist Church on Northeast Eighth Avenue Saturday evening. The jury in the second-degree murder case of Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, was deliberating in Sanford as the rally occurred in Gainesville. A few hours later, the jury found Zimmerman not guilty.

Among those attending the rally were clergy, community leaders and young people. They called for peace and unity regardless of the verdict.

Many of those who spoke said work must continue after the trial to try to eliminate racial divisions and racial profiling. Critics say Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, confronted Trayvon said he walked through the neighborhood because of his race and clothing.

Trenton Brooks, a member of the Dream Defenders organization that works to bring social change through nonviolent means, said the problems are bigger than Trayvon.

“It's not just one dead kid in the street but all of the youth who are being misjudged because of the way they look, the way they walk, the community they live in or how much money their parents make,” Brooks said. “I'm here today ... because it's us coming together as a community. We know we want to do something.”

Brandon Johnson urged people — particularly young people like himself — to work with others for peace rather than to riot.

“Start networking. It starts right here in this room,” Johnson said.

The theme of building bridges was also expressed by clergy.

The Rev. Milford Griner, who organized the rally, said people must learn from what happened with the Trayvon case and work together to eliminate the root causes of his shooting.

Father Les Singleton of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Micanopy said that regardless of the verdict, the hurt will still be felt.

“As long as one person is suffering an injustice, all of us do,” Singleton said.

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