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Toledoans hold vigil in memory of Trayvon Martin

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Mac McCluster of Toledo holds up a sign during a rally in support of Trayvon Martin Saturday, at the Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo. Rev. Al Sharpton is doing a vigil in wake of the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. He has called for rallies in 100 cities on Saturday in front of federal buildings.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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Some wore hoodies. Some carried hand-lettered signs with heart-felt messages. Some wore T-shirts with the slogan, "I Am Trayvon."

In all, several hundred people of various backgrounds rallied outside the Lucas County Courthouse today, part of a nationwide network of gatherings a week after a jury in Sanford, Fla., found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen who was fatally shot by the neighborhood watch volunteer who said he was defending himself.

On the Adams Street side of the courthouse, rally-goers seeking a better view filled the steps to the statue of President William McKinley as ministers led the crowd in prayer and exhorted them to civic action and community responsibility.

"We are a peaceful movement, but there's a cause," the Rev. Cedric Brock said as the rally began.

The Rev. Chris McBrayer, who organized the Toledo effort, led the rally in a call and response repeated by other speakers throughout the hourlong event.

"Justice!" said Mr. McBrayer, youth minister at Glass City Church of God. 

"Peace!" the crowd roared.

"We're going to get justice while we're having peace, because we don't have to terrorize the city to get it," Mr. McBrayer said.

He asked the crowd to sign petitions seeking federal civil-rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman and a register to show the Martin family that Toledo turned out to support them.

The Florida case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defense, guns, and race relations. Mr. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself when he shot the Martin youth, identifies himself as Hispanic. The Martin youth was black.

Other speakers in Toledo included Romules Durant, interim superintendent of the Toledo Public Schools, and State Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), who urged the crowd to back the legislative black caucus' efforts to quash a proposed stand-your-ground law in Ohio. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell said those in attendance could make the rally more than a one-day event.

"Let's put a 30-day moratorium on anybody in the city of Toledo killing anybody," Mr. Bell said. "That will send a message to Florida that Toledo cares."

Rachel Ajiboso, 29, of South Toledo, and her sister, Randa Taylor, 27, of North Toledo stood side by side, holding signs they'd made. Ms. Ajiboso wore a shirt, "I am Trayvon's mother."

"I can relate to Trayvon as being black and profiled, because it happened to me," said Ms. Ajiboso. She said she is concerned for the future of her own son, Sean Taylor, 4. The first line of her sign: "America, is my son next???"

"Eventually he will be a black man in this society, so I believe some laws need to be changed to allow him to grow up," Ms. Ajiboso said. "We need to give the black men a fighting chance."

The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network organized the rallies and vigils, billed as "Justice for Trayvon." Mr. McBrayer said the Toledo event was not meant to be in opposition to George Zimmerman. As he asked the crowd to sign petitions, he referred to Mr. Zimmerman as "that guy ... I don't want to say his name, because this is not about him."

Rallies and vigils took place in more than 100 cities, from New York to Los Angeles, from Billings, Mont., and Minneapolis to Natchez, Miss.

In Ohio, rallies were held in Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. In Michigan, rallies were held outside the federal courthouse in Detroit, the federal building in Flint, and in Saginaw. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

 

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