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Freeman-Wilson promotes fight to change laws in demonstration

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Updated: August 22, 2013 7:02AM



HAMMOND — They yelled “Save the children! Stop the violence” as they marched in front of the Northern Indiana District Federal Courthouse, signs calling for an end to the violence.

The more than 75 people who came out to the federal courthouse Saturday afternoon to protest the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida last week were peaceful but resolute in their demand for a repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, thousands of people upset over Zimmerman’s acquittal took to the streets across nation on Saturday.

For the protesters, the only way anything will change is through peaceful, yet forceful pressure. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson told the crowd that while the country discussed how the verdict would define this period of history while the jury was out, she believes it’s the actions of people afterward that will.

“What are we going to do about these injustices like Stand Your Ground and the changes to the Voting Rights Act?” she said. “We teach our boys to not look people in the eye and to not ‘cause trouble,’ but we have to teach them instead how to go to the Statehouse and the White House so their voices can be heard.”

Bishop Tavis Grant, Operation Push/Rainbow Coalition national field director, said Indiana is one of 22 states that has a Stand Your Ground law, and it’s like Florida’s law in that it hinges upon who was the aggressor in an incident regardless of who has the weapon. Coupled with profiling, an open season could be declared on black teens, he said.

One only need look at the Marissa Alexander case to see that Stand Your Ground is applied unfairly, Grant said. Alexander is serving a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot at her husband when he broke into her home.

“Marissa Alexander is a victim of domestic violence, and she’s been denied her right to use Stand Your Ground,” Grant said. “Her youngest child turned 3 today (Saturday), and her mother is serving a 20-year sentence.

“If Zimmerman can be acquitted, she should be pardoned. Right is right, and enough is enough.”

Zimmerman, a civilian patrolling his Sanford, Fla., community in a neighborhood watch patrol, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed.

Zimmerman’s attorneys argued that he shot Martin in self-defense, but the case sparked an outcry because Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Hunter Lane, 13 and of Gary, was there because he felt he needed to be.

“We need to stop the violence, and I want to help others,” Hunter said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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