One by one, the six jurors seated in the small basement of Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester read their verdicts in the mock retrial of George Zimmerman, the Florida man acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012.
The jury’s unanimous guilty verdict was symbolic, but for the multiracial jury made up of three Dorchester teenagers and three women, the Saturday morning event still carried power.
“We need to speak up no matter the color of our skin, we have to stand up and say no more, we cannot take it anymore,” said juror Elizabeth Clark, a Somerville mother of two, fighting back tears. “Zimmerman is guilty of murder, the law enforcement is guilty of neglect. Period.”
The group met in part to honor the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington 50 years ago, as many at the church said the country has made many strides forward but has more work ahead before King’s dream of a society free of racism can be realized.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to Washington Saturday to remember the march and hear a lineup of speakers that included Martin Luther King III; Representative John Lewis of Georgia, an organizer of the 1963 march; and Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.
Wayne Dozier sat in the audience, nodding along and clapping with about 30 others as the jury spoke.
Dozier’s grandson, D.J. Henry, was a student at Pace University when he was killed by police outside a restaurant in Mount Pleasant, N.Y., on Oct. 17, 2010. The death of Henry, a 20-year-old African-American man from Easton, stirred controversy and complaints of racial bias on the part of officers.
Dozier, 60, a deacon at Greater Love Tabernacle Church, said he saw hope in Saturday’s event. Anything that can get the public talking about violence and race in the country is a step in the right direction, he said.
“It is good seeing people coming together, because it’s not a black thing. It’s an injustice to us all, to lose our humanity like this, to let this continue to happen,” he said after the jury’s deliberations ended. “What they did here was beautiful, to see a multiracial group of people coming together on a point that is pertinent to the whole nation.”
During the trial, Jean Isme, juror number six, sat silently at the end of the jury’s table, wearing a gray hoodie.
As the mock trial came to an end he stood up and took on the role of Trayvon Martin.
“Was I wrong for wearing a hoodie down the street?” he asked the audience. “If my hoodie wasn’t on, could I have been a target?”
The 19-year-old Dorchester native graduated this year from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. Violence has taken a toll on his friends, he said.
“He could have been me,” he said. “I have siblings myself. It could be my little brother, my little sister going down the street.”
Lynn Currier, one of the jurors, organized the trial. Currier, who is of European and Native American descent, came home after visiting a friend to speak with her son, who is part African-American.
He put his arm around his mother, and told her that he, too, could have been shot if he lived in Florida.
“My son is the same height as Trayvon, he is the same weight as Trayvon, he is a brown boy, and he is a beautiful boy who plays football and loves his family just like Trayvon,” she said. “At that point I decided the gloves were coming off.”
Currier, a youth activist, talked to other friends and activists about the verdict. They decided to form their own jury and decide the case.
“We want to share with white folks what the day-to-day realities are for black and brown and Native boys,” she said. “If they don’t experience it themselves, they really don’t understand that we all have a part in correcting some of the inequities that are really hurting communities of color, especially the kids.”
Currier said the jury will request that Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick establish a fund to support victims of street violence and homicide victims’ families, and to increase funding to agencies and groups working on violence prevention.
Sitting down outside the church basement after the trial, parishioner Venetta Phillips said the event had shown a solidarity that is needed in the aftermath of Zimmerman’s acquittal and the raw feelings that have come with it.
“It was nice to see different colors representing the whole process to see that people outside of the black community felt so strongly for the people of our community,” the 45-year old said.
For now, she said, it is a good start.Javier Panzar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jpanzar.