Students at the University of Oklahoma rallied Monday morning to demand justice for a Florida teenager who was shot and killed February 26.
More than 100 students showed up outside the Student Union Building then walked silently around the oval in a sign of solidarity for equality.
The idea for the rally formed when several students and faculty members got together to discuss the death of Trayvon Martin and what needs to happen to seek justice. Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman said he killed Martin in self defense.
Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher he followed the 17-year-old, who was visiting his father's fiancé in a gated community, because he looked suspicious. Zimmerman said he lost sight of Martin and was going back to his SUV when Martin attacked him. Zimmerman said that's when he shot the teenager once in the chest.
Officers said when they arrived, Zimmerman had a bloody nose and lacerations that supported his self-defense story. He has not been arrested.
Martin's family said their unarmed son was gunned down by an overzealous vigilante. They're also decrying news reports that mention the teen was suspended from his Miami-Dade County high school because an empty plastic bag with traces of marijuana was found in his book bag. Martin's parents say it's just an attempt to vilify him and justify murder. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has confirmed Martin did not have a juvenile offender record.
Several speakers at OU Monday shared their stories of racial injustices and their worries that a situation like Martin's death could happen anywhere.
"This type of racial injustice for longer than anyone can imagine and it's getting worse now because everyone thinks that racism is gone," Jason Quaynor said.
For Jason Quaynor, Martin's killing stirs up memories. At 17, an off-duty officer approached him while he was going to a friend's house in a gated community.
"I was asked why I was there and he flashed his badge at me, and this made me realize that there was nothing I could do in the situation, I was powerless," Quaynor said.
Quaynor says he feared the worst could happen in that very moment.
"Get shot, arrested, beaten, anything just because I was black," Quaynor said.
Student organizers say similar instances happen all too often and the only way to fix the problem is to start talking and raise awareness.
"Our main thing is it's a human right, social justice issue that someone can be considered suspicious for no reason," said Lauren Whiteman, organizer of the rally.
Some fear the same type of killing could happen here in Oklahoma.
"I should be able to wear something like a hoodie and be able to walk to a convenience store in my neighborhood," Whiteman said.
And that's the key. Demonstrators say you can't judge anyone based on how they dress. They say clothing shouldn't be grounds for deeming a person suspicious or dangerous.
This is the second rally in the metro in two days for Trayvon Martin. Three-to-four hundred people showed up Sunday afternoon at the corner of Classen and N.W. 23rd St. in Oklahoma City to demand justice for the teenager.
3/25/2012 Related Story: Rally For Trayvon Martin Held In OKC