The George Zimmerman verdict has sparked a local conversation about disproportionate jury representation, racial disparities in school suspensions and gang-related gun violence.
More than 100 protestors gathered in front of the downtown Syracuse's James M. Hanley Federal Building to speak out against George Zimmerman's acquittal.
Twiggy Billue serves on the local National Action Network's Education Committee. She encouraged the rally's attendees to take responsibility if they want equal rights in the criminal justice system.
“We don’t even make up the jury pool in our own county! Why is that? Why don’t we fill out the questionnaires that come in? Why don’t we tell Commissioner Oglesby that it starts with the Jury?" Billue asked the crowd.
She also pointed out black students are more likely to become suspended than whites. And when they receive this disciplinary action, they're more likely to die on the streets.
“I am angry that the educational system pushes out African-American students using the tool of suspension," she cried. "You all must know that Trayvon Benjamin Martin was suspended when he lost his life!”
Julius Edwards, NAN member and executive director of the Dunbar Association, moderated the rally's speakers. He addressed the problem of gang-related gun violence, reminding the crowd that it's always an injustice any time a young person dies.
“And we need to start addressing that here locally." We need to march for every young person in this community who has died at the hands of gun violence, whether it be black-on-black, white-on-black, green-on-green," Edwards said.
He points out these children are the future. So, it's up to the adults to value them as such. The NAACP hopes to collect 575,000 signatures to petition the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue a civil case against Zimmerman. The local chapter asked those at the rally to put their names on the list.