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Wednesday, Jul 17 2013 07:35 PM

Demonstrators call for justice following Trayvon Martin case

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Maethan Johnson, left, mother of four sons, leads the more than 150 demonstrators in a chant of "It's not OK, to shoot our sons" at the Liberty Bell in front of the Kern County Superior Court during a Trayvon Martin protest on Wednesday night in Bakersfield.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Many of the more than 150 protestors walk across Truxton Avenue at the L Street intersection as they marched along Truxton and back to the Liberty Bell during their demonstration on Wednesday night.

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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

More than 150 protesters brought fallout from the Trayvon Martin case to Bakersfield late Wednesday afternoon with a marching, chanting demonstration in front of the Liberty Bell downtown.

Organizers from the NAACP Bakersfield Branch pressed for civil rights charges to be brought against George Zimmerman, the 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted Saturday of shooting and killing Martin, a black teenager, on Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Fla.

Event co-organizers with the Bosses in Black Social Club in Bakersfield drew parallels to Kern County. The club's president and founder, Desirae Wiley, called for justice in the cases of local youth who have been killed with no criminal charges filed.

"We want to get justice here just as well as around the country," she said.

While protests in Los Angeles and Oakland have at times become lawless, Wednesday's event in Bakersfield remained peaceful as it grew from a little more than a dozen people at 5 p.m. to 10 times that many an hour later.

Demonstrators young and old shouted in call-and-response fashion: "It's not OK (It's not OK!) to shoot our sons! (to shoot our sons!)" and "I am (I am), Trayvon! (Trayvon!)"

Despite the summer heat, some children showed up in hoodies Wednesday in honor of Martin, who was wearing a similar sweatshirt the night of his death.

There were a variety of picket signs with slogans such as "Justice for Trayvon Martin," and "No justice no peace." Cars among the passing traffic occasionally honked in support.

Before the rally turned into a march along a one-block stretch of Truxtun, several speakers took to the podium on the southeast corner of Truxtun and Chester avenues. Among the first was Jeremy Wright, minister at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Bakersfield, who led the group in prayer.

His prayer, an adaptation of one by St. Francis of Assisi, concluded: "It is in dying -- even in the case of Trayvon -- that we have eternal life."

Art Powell, second vice president of the NAACP in Bakersfield, said Zimmerman's acquittal points up the need to re-examine how the law is structured.

"Here they sent (professional quarterback) Michael Vick to prison for fighting dogs, and you kill a human being and you go free," he said. "That's the justice system we deal with today. It's sad but it's reality."

The president of the NAACP's Bakersfield branch, Patrick Jackson, emphasized the theme of justice, saying Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights when he took his life.

"George Zimmerman picked out and sought after a young African-American male that was walking in his own neighborhood, and George Zimmerman took his life because of that reason," Jackson said.

Jackson added that the group condemns violence of any kind, including that of protesters in L.A. and elsewhere.

He and others said more rallies and organizing events will follow in the months to come, if only to make sure the community has a voice when injustice occurs.

Demonstrator Kawandra Andry brought her two children, ages 10 and 12, to the event dressed in hoodies and holding a banner of their local dance club, the Bakersfield Drillettes.

Though less forceful than many of the protesters around her, she called Zimmerman's acquittal a "hard situation."

"It (justice) could've been served a little bit better," she said.

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