200 march in Trayvon Martin case protest

Racial profiling and police brutality decried in walk through Roxbury

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
The Richardson sisters - Nadeja, 14; Nariah, 10; and Nia, 13, waited for the march to get underway.

As protesters waved handwritten signs reading “Fight Racism’’ and “A Modern American Lynching’’ and strains of Stevie Wonder’s “Black Man’’ wafted in the wind, Lynneanne Burnett, 58, felt a pang of nostalgia.

For the first time since the ’70s, Burnett said, she felt the black community taking a collective stand.

“I see new life in this movement,’’ said Burnett, a Winthrop resident. “People have a lot of passion for these issues right now, and a lot of that is because of Trayvon.’’


At the Saturday afternoon rally in Roxbury to denounce the death of Trayvon Martin, protesters said the case has galvanized Boston’s communities of color, spurring them to take a stand against the currents of racial profiling and police brutality they have known for a lifetime.

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“This is just the latest example of a really racist society,’’ said Khury Petersen-Smith, 29, of Dorchester. “And people are finally saying enough is enough. They want to draw the line with Trayvon.’’

Martin, 17, who was black, was walking home in Sanford, Fla., the night of Feb. 26 after buying Skittles and iced tea when he was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

The group of some 200 protesters, a little more than half of them black, gathered at the Ruggles MBTA Station and then marched past Boston Police Department headquarters on Tremont Street, chanting: “Protect and serve, that’s a lie - you don’t care if black men die.’’

Almost six months ago, the Occupy Boston and Occupy the Hood movements gathered behind the same police station to oppose police brutality and racial profiling. One speaker at the time asked the audience, “Has anyone here heard a group of black cops having mistakenly shot a white kid?’’ then laughed when no one raised a hand.


Saturday, as Margie Clay, a 66-year-old Cambridge woman, marched toward Dudley Square, wisps of her gray hair peeked out from underneath the hood of her gray sweatshirt. She had clipped a bag of Skittles to the side of the hood in solidarity.

“Trayvon could have been anyone,’’ Clay said. “He could have been one of my sons, or even my daughter.’’

Clay said she grew up in North Carolina and had considered moving back to the South in her retirement. Now, Martin’s death has made her question that idea - though she knows the same brands of violence can, and do, take place in Boston.

“It’s really troubling to me how the government just lets this happen,’’ Clay said.

Much of the protesters’ ire was aimed at the “Stand Your Ground’’ law, the legislation that allows residents to use deadly force in self-defense outside their homes, and which some say has shielded Martin’s shooter from arrest.


That legislation is being considered by Massachusetts lawmakers, and is now pending before the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It’s appalling,’’ said LaTeisha T.j. Johnson, 26, of Hyde Park. “It’s another reason for people to die senselessly.’’

Johnson said she has found much in Martin’s story with which she can identify. He had been watching the NBA All-Star Game minutes before he was killed. And he looks like any of her younger brothers.

Three sisters from Roxbury holding up signs were similarly well-versed in the details of Trayvon Martin’s killing.

“I came out here because I care about Trayvon, and Zimmerman had no right to shoot him just because he’s black and he had a hoodie,’’ said Nia Richardson, 13.

Her 10-year-old sister, Nariah, agreed. She said their family has discussed the story - and its racial implications - on several occasions since they first heard about it.

“I didn’t think it was right,’’ Nariah said.

Corey Yarbrough, 26, a member of Boston’s Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, urged others at the rally to remember other communities that often bear the brunt of brutalization by both police and civilians - including gays and lesbians, Muslims, immigrants.

And while he said he was happy people made a strong showing to the rally, he reminded them that Saturday’s march would only have lasting effects if it was followed up with real action - like voting and calling up politicians.

“It’s going to take more than rocking hoodies and making it your Facebook picture,’’ he said.

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.