By Kelly Mae Ross
Members of the Lexington community gathered at the Rockbridge County Courthouse Monday for a protest and candlelight vigil in honor of Trayvon Martin. The event marked the one-month anniversary of the day the black teenager from Florida was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a member of a local community watch program.
The 17-year-old’s death has spurred a national debate about race relations in America. Questions have been raised about why the shooter, who is not black, hasn’t been arrested and charged for the killing.
Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense when he pulled the trigger. Florida is one of 21 states that has a “stand your ground law” that gives people more freedom to use deadly force instead of fleeing if they feel threatened.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI are conducting a civil rights investigation.
Washington and Lee University Law student Elizabeth Pohm said it is “unsettling” that Zimmerman has not been arrested.
Pohm organized the local vigil and protest and estimated a turnout of 80 to 100 people. She said she believes people should care about the Trayvon Martin killing because something like this could happen anywhere.
“I think that we have systemic racism in our culture and I know that people don’t like to hear that,” Pohm said. “I know that a lot of people, particularly white people, like to think that that’s a thing of the past or that it’s not something that causes any harm, but I don’t think that’s true.”
Pohm said she hoped the event would spread awareness about the killing and the issues surrounding it. She said she also hoped it would remind people of their duty to speak up when they see injustice occurring.
“When people come out and participate in something like this, they go home feeling better because they feel like their voice was heard and they did something,” she said.
Pohm and other organizers encouraged those who attended the event to wear jeans and hooded sweatshirts—what Martin was wearing when he was shot.
Information for this story was also provided by the Associated Press.