Students, community members march for Trayvon Martin

Yalies joined New Haven residents in protesting the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, which has sparked a nationwide debate about racial profiling. Protesters wore hoodies in honor of Martin, who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot dead in February.
Yalies joined New Haven residents in protesting the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, which has sparked a nationwide debate about racial profiling. Protesters wore hoodies in honor of Martin, who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot dead in February. Photo by Brianne Bowen.

On Saturday afternoon, Yalies and New Haven residents donned hooded sweatshirts and marched from Dixwell Avenue to City Hall to protest the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.

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The march, which was organized by the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY) and co-sponsored by other activist groups from Yale, New Haven and elsewhere in the state, aimed to raise awareness about racial profiling and the need for unity among local groups taking steps to combat it. Called “Hoodies Up New Haven,” the march and subsequent rally at City Hall commemorated Martin, a 17-year-old high school student who was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26 while walking home from a convenience store wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Echoing nationwide demands for Zimmerman’s arrest and “an end to racial profiling,” Saturday’s march hoped to promote an additional message: that Yale and New Haven must join forces to address local problems of discrimination.

“This is not a problem just for the black community,” said Nia Holston ’14, political action chair of BSAY and an organizer of the march. “[Racial profiling] is something that affects all of us.”

Holston said the tragedy in Florida has prompted BSAY to work toward calling attention to racial profiling in New Haven and become more involved in social causes within the city. Holston said she came up with the idea for a march and rally after a BSAY-hosted discussion about Trayvon Martin’s death and racial profiling last Tuesday. BSAY worked with numerous other activist groups both from Yale and beyond, including several NAACP chapters, to plan the march. Holston also enlisted the support of local community organizers such as Rev. Scott Marks, who led marchers from the Q House in Dixwell to the New Haven Green, and Barbara Fair, who introduced each speaker at the ensuing rally on the steps of City Hall.

Holston said organizers chose to gather at the Q House, a former community center, rather than an on-campus location, to ensure that Saturday’s event was “a New Haven march, not a Yale march.”

In total, over 400 people attended the rally, Holston said, of which only a quarter were Yale students. A small group of Washington, D.C., natives, including T-shirt vendor Thaddeus Jackson, who had attended another march for Trayvon Martin earlier that morning in Hartford, said they have been “following the Trayvon Movement” across the country for the past few weeks.

Still, Yale’s presence at the protest was prominent, and several student groups used public excitement about the event as an opportunity for advocacy.

The Yale College Democrats and MEChA de Yale, a student group that seeks to “promote Chicano empowerment” through education and political activism, teamed up to collect signatures for a petition demanding that the city “take an active stance against racial profiling.” The petition called for an increase in police officer walking beats, “more curricula about racial profiling and community relations” in police training programs and ongoing discussion about relations between the community and the New Haven Police Department. By the end of the day, MEChA moderator Diana Enriquez ’13 said, the petition had 264 signatures. Enriquez added that although calling attention to racial profiling with a march is important, “it should never end there.”

Dems President Zak Newman ’13 agreed, and cited the importance of local events like Saturday’s protest in initiating conversations about race among people with different backgrounds.

Will McPherson ’15, one of 40 “volunteer marshals” at the events, said he attended the march because, “as a white male who’s not profiled,” he felt the need to “support my friends who shouldn’t have to live through this.” In his speech at the rally, BSAY President Joshua Penny ’13 addressed those who assume that college students are “bandwagoners, quick to repost a status on Facebook” but unwilling to take real action.

“Do not underestimate my generation,” he told the diverse crowd gathered on the steps of City Hall. “Don’t underestimate our strategy, and don’t underestimate our tools,” Penny continued, looking out over scores of painted signs.

Marks, who is also a co-founder of the Connecticut Center for a New Economy, a progressive social policy advocacy organization, commended BSAY organizers and Yalies who attended the protest.

“[The Yale administration] would like [students] to stay inside of the ivory towers, but they’re in this community fighting,” he said in his speech.

A Florida grand jury is scheduled to review the Trayvon Martin case on April 10.


  • lakia

    Selective outrage.

  • howardn

    If Trayvon had succeeded in his attempt to murder Zimmerman, would these same students and community member be marching for Zimmerman? Doubt it. Guess there are not enough mouthpieces for white hispanics.

    • whatwhat

      please tell me this is sarcasm

  • Frashizzle

    Zimmerman probably did something wrong… but I wasn’t there and neither were any of these protesters. It’s a great cause to fight racial profiling, but specifically rallying for the arrest of someone who you only know to be bad because CNN pundits told you so is WRONG.

  • connman250

    Thirty black men were murdered by black men last year, in New Haven. What no marches!!!!!! Libercrats will always wisper to you that, ” as long as they kill eachother, it’s okay”.

    • dms

      There was a march on Dec. 6 last year for safe streets and good jobs. Around 1,000 people. I’m assuming you weren’t there.

  • connman250

    Can someone point out to me what kind of local discrimination we have? Really!

  • MsMoneypenny

    No justice, no peace.

  • dms

    There is nothing wrong with rallying to demand at the very least a criminal prosecution. “Zimmerman overreacted” isn’t a defense. It’s not acceptable to “overreact” by shooting somebody to death. I’m not angry because “CNN pundits” are telling me to be angry, I’m angry because of the facts. It’s not “selective outrage” if you feel that your life is worth less than your neighbor’s because of the color of your skin. Guess you’d have to be a Yalie not to understand this.

    I’m not saying you all are racist, but. . . you’re racist.

  • controlforconfounds

    “Guess you’d have to be a Yalie not to understand this.” —It hurts your position of non-discrimination to make an assumption like that…plus, it doesn’t even make sense. If we’re making sweeping generalizations, of all places in the world, a New England private liberal arts college is going to contain fewer racists than most other places.

  • redman

    According to the police report “Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head.” Florida has a law allowing the use of deadly force for self defense.

  • kafantaris

    To understand the Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman case, you need to listen to the recorded phone call made by the neighbor to 911.
    The fatal shot is heard during this call.
    Merely listen to it.
    Then draw your own conclusions.
    No need for experts. No need for pundits. No need even for an open mind.
    Just listen to the haunting call.
    A transcript won’t do. It must be heard.
    Here it is: