Jasper — The Trayvon Martin/Kendrick Johnson Peace Rally and March held Friday, July 19 in Jasper drew more than 100 men, women, teenagers and young children from the local area, as well as from Georgia to peacefully protest the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Kendrick Johnson in a “Come Together as One March”. The event was organized by Shawnetta Davis, Tiara Allen and Terrence Houston.
Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American from Miami who was shot to death Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford by an Hispanic man, George Zimmerman. On July 13, 2013, after a four-day trial, the jury in the case acquitted Zimmerman of second degree murder and manslaughter. Public outcries and protests have been ongoing across the nation since Zimmerman's acquittal.
In another high profile case that has gained national attention, family and friends of African American Kendrick Johnson were also at the peace rally in Jasper. Johnson was a 17-year-old student in Valdosta, Ga. whose lifeless body was found inside a rolled up wrestling mat at the Lowndes County High School gymnasium on January 11, 2013. His death was ruled accidental by officials, however, the family refutes the finding and has asked the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice to re-open the investigation.
Mykerria Hicks from Lake City came to the rally in Jasper to honor Martin and said she was there “for justice, because it was wrong.”
Nijah Vanderbilt, Na'Keriah Jackson, Markeem Ingram and Camara Henderson from Jasper were in attendance raising peaceful protest signs to honor Martin.
“We need justice for these kids,” said Henderson. “It's a shame how all these kids are getting killed around here. We need help trying to get it right. We're trying to help their families out because it's sad.”
After a brief prayer service given by Pastor Helen Kaiser at Jasper City Park, Tiara Allen spoke about the reason for the march, which she said was in honor of Trayvon Martin, Kendrick Johnson and other innocent victims who have lost their lives due to violent crimes.
“We come together today to honor these families, to stand for justice and what we believe in, in a peaceful manner,” said Allen.
With a police escort leading the way, the gathered crowd began their march up Hatley Street chanting, “No justice, no peace.” They continued over to Buddy Parker Park on ML King Drive, where they continued their rally and listened to speakers, including Rev. Tyrone White from Deep Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Lake City.
“We're going to try to bring some light to the community to let them know that there's a different way to go about this,” said Rev. White about the Martin case. “Basically, there's nothing we can do right now. The only thing we can do is leave it in the hands of the Lord because right now the verdict has been given. All we can do is pray and ask God to fix our judicial system, to fix our courtrooms and the magistrates.”
Rev. White said his objective was to put a positive message out to the community to let them know it's not always a racial matter, although these type incidents sometimes turn into racial issues, he added.
“We just have to be smarter as a community to realize and understand that some things we just can't control and some things we can,” said White. “We have to ask God to change things and ask him to direct, because we can't change it in the flesh. Only God can change it.”
Both Jasper Police Chief Jeff McGuire and Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid reported by phone on Saturday that “there were no incidents” and the rally ended peacefully and quietly.