One year to the day after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down in Sanford, Fla. by 28-year-old George Zimmerman after leaving a 7-Eleven with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea, activists gathered at the Georgia State Capitol to voice their support for new gun control measures in the state.
Led by State Sen. Vince Fort and a number of activists including students, politicians and civic leaders, the group called for an end to gun violence and state legislation enacted that would reduce the number of firearms on the street.
Fort said the Georgia State Capitol’s steps were the ideal location to deliver the message.
“If we’re gonna get the stand-your-ground law changed, if we’re gonna get assault weapons banned it’s gonna happen here,” he told the Daily World. “So that’s why we came here to speak up and speak out, make sure that lawmakers knew that we are in a position to demand that they do something about gun violence.”
Attendance for the rally was noticeably smaller than the thousands who had shown up to the Capitol steps last year to protest for Martin, but neither the cold air nor a shortage of warm bodies would stop participants from making their voices heard.
“At what point do we stop having funerals over nonsense?” Georgia NAACP chapter president Edward DuBose asked the crowd. “We must stop it.”
While mentions of Martin and signs devoted to his memory were many, speakers also pointed to other victims of gun violence who had recently lost their lives including the elementary school students and teachers in Newtown, Conn., Chicago youth including Hadiya Pendleton, a high school student who was shot and killed weeks after attending President Obama’s inauguration, and teenager Jordan Davis, who was killed by 45-year-old Michael Dunn near Jacksonville, Fla., allegedly over a dispute about his music being too loud.
Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, spoke to the crowd about her son and the fight she and his father have taken to change gun laws around the country.
“We know that our son would want us to do something on his behalf and on the behalf of all the other victims. And he would expect us to do this,” she told the Daily World. “It’s very bittersweet, because even though we’re fighting and standing up for what we believe has to happen in this country there is a hole, a void, that will never be filled. No matter what we’re able to accomplish, our son is gone. But I think that we know that Jordan would want us to continue to fight.”
Activists called for a review and repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law that both Zimmerman and Dunn are claiming as defense for their shootings. The law, which is on the books in 27 states, gives legal immunity to a person who, according to the statute, uses “deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.”
It means prosecutors must disprove a killer’s assertion that they felt threatened, as opposed to the shooter having to establish they acted reasonably and in self defense. It also bars the deceased’s family from bringing a civil suit.
In addition to McBath, Fort and DuBose, President of Georgia Federation of Teachers Verdaillia Turner, State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) and representatives from AFLCIO and Organizing for Action also addressed the rally.
The crowd joined many times in unison with the speakers, chanting “Stop Violence Now” and “Jordan Davis.”
McBath, who buried her 17-year-old son on Dec. 1 in Marietta, said that her fight is far from finished.
“As hard as it may be – and my husband knows at night when I cry or some days it’s just really hard to get up out of bed and move – we have to move, we have to keep going forward, because this is bigger than us. The nation has got to turn its face back to some sense of human right, the value of human life for everyone.”