Locals take to streets in protest
The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin this past weekend has sparked outrage in many corners of this country. But it was met with especially high emotions in Newburgh, where feelings of despair are all too common.
Martin, 17, was shot to death in February 2012 after Zimmerman stopped the teenager as a suspicious character walking along a residential street. Zimmerman maintained that the shooting was in self-defense and, during a highly publicized trial, was acquitted of responsibility in the killing.
Monday, a group of about 60-70 Newburgh-area residents marched down Broadway chanting while carrying signs protesting the result of the Sanford, Fla., trial.
Omari Shakur, who has become a community activist following the shooting death of his teenage son at the hands of local police, played a key role Monday night in the protest.
Shakur, wearing a hoodie much like the one Trayvon Martin was wearing the night he was shot, played the role of Martin.
“He shot me and he killed me,” Shakur, as Martin, said, referring to Zimmerman. “You know why? “Cause I’m black.”
Several members of the audience addressed the City Council Monday during the public comment period to express a variety of complaints about the city.
Shakur spoke against approval of the city accepting a $360,000 grant from the State of New York Division of Criminal Justice Services that the city will use to enhance law enforcement. Shakur said he has “alternatives” he prefers the city spend its money on, ignoring the fact that the city can only spend the money on such items as three additional police officers, a crime analyst and technology to thwart local crime.
Others voiced preferences for a shelter for the city’s homeless, rent control and more programs for local children. Programs adding more police protection weren’t high on the protesters’ list.
“We are Newburgh,” one resident stressed as protesters stood in the audience hoisting signs that read: “JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON” and “No Justice; No Peace.”
One of the demands marchers made was the inclusion of local attorney Michael Sussman, who specializes in cases involving the poor and downtrodden, to be included on a panel arbitrating differences between police and citizens.
Councilwoman Gay Lee offered her office as councilwoman to help solve differences between citizens and police. She also said she would set up a meeting with Sussman that would include representatives of those unhappy with local police.
“We need to fight against use of weapons to shoot black kids,” she said. “The [Zimmerman] decision was unfair and the people know the decision was unfair,” she said.
But Lee said she would fight her battle with her pen, not a gun.
By ALLAN GAUL