Utah protesters rally to condemn Zimmerman acquittal
For those who gathered Monday to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin's death represents more than one isolated self-defense argument.
"Ask any mother who has a black son: We fear when nighttime comes," Victoria Setchunya said tearfully to a crowd of more than 150 people at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City.
Setchunya said her son was pulled over by police in Weber County while he was driving with his now-wife, who is white. The couple said the officer asked the woman if she was being held against her will.
"This is so insulting," Setchunya said.
Bill Vulle said he helped organize the rally because he is afraid Zimmerman's acquittal will relax attitudes toward racial profiling.
Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was black, in 2012 in a gated neighborhood in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman called police and told them Martin appeared to be suspicious, pursued Martin and shot him during an altercation. Zimmerman's attorneys claimed the shooting was in self-defense, and a jury found him not guilty on Saturday.
"It scares me. This verdict may give people the excuse to stop youth of color," Vulle said as protesters waved signs to honking car horns on State Street. "The ramifications are mind-boggling."
Several demonstrators said they have grown wary of profiling in Utah, but not always because of overt hostility. More often it is a pattern of nuanced differences in treatment, protesters said.
"I go into a grocery store or a department store, and people follow. They ask 10 times, can they help you, even when there are lots of other people who may need help. Then they're waiting at the door when I leave," said Karen Killinger. "I always take a very small purse or no purse when I go shopping.
"After so many times, I know it's not a coincidence."
Still others said they were more concerned about the verdict's implications for public safety. Ozwald Balfour noted that Zimmerman was told not to follow Martin when he called police.
"Nobody had to be killed that day. [Zimmerman] had an errand that he was going to complete no matter what the police said," Balfour said. "It's not about race ... it's about people being trigger-happy.
"For Mister Zimmerman to walk sends a very wrong message. If that's justice, God help us all."