BY JAMES HARPER, DAYTONA TIMES: Hundreds of Bethune-Cookman University and Daytona State students, joined by members of Occupy Daytona and others, marched from the B-CU campus to protest the refusal of law enforcement authorities to arrest George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Sanford man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Martin was unarmed carrying only a bag of Skittles candy and a can of iced tea when he was shot. The incident has galvanized millions across the nation with many claiming Martin, a Black boy, was racially profiled.
The Feb. 26 killing motivated and mobilized the students to march from the campus to the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, where another rally organized by Fighting Against Injustice Toward Humanity (F.A.I.T.H.) was taking place to address homelessness in Volusia County.
F.A.I.T.H., composed of members of approximately 30 Volusia county churches, was holding its annual assembly. It asked Volusia County Council members – five of seven were in attendance – to direct their staff to come up with a funding source to raise at least $950,000 to support the county’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.
Though the Trayvon Martin protesters caught organizers of the F.A.I.T.H. off guard, they were welcomed by one of the speakers during the assembly.
Rev. Walter Monroe, chaplain at Bethune Cookman University was on the campus Monday as the students prepared to march down Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard to Ridgewood Avenue where First Baptist Church is located. Rev. Monroe was also coincidently scheduled to give the call to order during the F.A.I.T.H assembly and chose to also recognize the students and the Trayvon Martin issue.
“No justice. No peace. No justice. No peace. Faith moves mountains. Faith moves mountains!” Rev. Monroe said to the packed church. He told them that the students initiated the march and chose to attend the F.A.I.T.H. rally to make a statement calling for justice for Trayvon and his family.
Other marches and protests took place all over the country Monday, one month to the day of Martin’s killing. The purpose of the marches was to help put pressure on law enforcement to arrest Zimmerman, who was never charged with a crime by the Sanford Police Department or local prosecutors. Many protesters wore jackets with hoods and carried bags of Skittles candy and a can or bottle of ice tea.
Dale Crosby is a B-CU student and one of the organizers of the Daytona Beach march.
“We are Trayvon Martin. If we allow this to happen to one, it can happen to any of us,” Crosby said. “It’s important for the students of B-CU to fight for justice.”
Jacques Durand Jr., who is Mr. B-CU, remembers being taught about the participation of college students during the civil rights movement.
“Something had to be done. It’s important for us (students) to express how we feel about (the killing of) Trayvon,” Durand said. “Though most of us are not from Daytona Beach, we have to be cognizant of what’s going on.”
‘Change the hearts’
George Roberts, who is White, felt compelled to join the march when he learned about it.
“It will take Christians and those of us who believe in God to help change the hearts of those who racially profile,” said Roberts.
Teresa Breland said she participated in the march because of her seven grandchildren.
“It could have been my daughter. It’s not safe to walk anywhere. He (Trayvon) got caught ‘walking while Black,’” Breland concluded.
Lani Van Petten, a member of Occupy Daytona, is White and over 50. She participated in the march because she was against racial profiling.
“Out of a tragedy there can come unity. We’re all one. We care about our kids, and grandkids. Nobody should be profiled,” Van Petten said.
‘A free man’
Daytona Beach resident Donna Cooper said she is upset over the injustice of the criminal justice system.
“There are innocent Black people getting life in prison, and George Zimmerman is walking the streets a free man,” said Cooper.
Durham an organizer
Dr. L. Ronald Durham, pastor of Daytona Beach’s Greater Friendship Baptist Church, helped organize a rally in Sanford March 22 supporting Trayvon and his family. The Sanford march attracted thousands, including civil rights activists the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III.
Durham was also scheduled to speak during the F.A.I.T.H rally about the organization’s successful initiative urging the county to do more local hiring.
He addressed marchers on the BCU campus before they began their march to First Baptist.
“We don’t want the march (for justice for Trayvon) to end at the (First Baptist) church,” he exclaimed. “The Trayvon Martin incident that has galvanized you needs to be highlighted so this never happens again. It could have been one of you.
“What F.A.I.T.H. does all year long is what your rally is about tonight,” concluded Durham.