At least two large rallies are planned in Iowa tonight to mark the one-month anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. The 17-year-old boy was shot to death by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claims he acted in self defense.
Although Martin was unarmed, Zimmerman has not been arrested in the case. Megan Schwalm has organized a rally tonight in downtown Iowa City. “The point of the rally is not just to draw attention to the Trayvon Martin case, although that is very important, but it’s also to raise awareness about racial inequality and racism,” Schwalm says.
Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was shot on the night of February 26. Schwalm is calling her event “Iowa City’s Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin.” She claims racism is “alive and well” in Iowa and says police in this state routinely practice racial profiling.
“I don’t know a single person of color who hasn’t had an experience with racial profiling,” Schwalm says. “So, it’s important that we have these rallies in order to try and shift the conversation and begin talking more honestly and openly about racial inequality, social justice, racial profiling and, frankly, white privilege.”
The rally is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. on the fountain stage on the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall. Schwalm, who works for the Women’s Resource and Action Center in Iowa City, anticipates a crowd of several hundred people who will hear from several speakers.
“Before the speakers, we have a youth from the area who is going to be reading the story about what happened to Trayvon,” Schwalm said. “Then, we’ll have five or six speakers who are going talk about racial profiling and their own personal stories.” A vigil and rally is planned for 6 p.m. today at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.
That event is being organized college students who are opposed to the so-called “Stand Your Ground” legislation approved earlier this year in the Iowa House. The gun rights measure would give Iowans the right to use “reasonable force” to stop a crime in a public place, not just in their home or workplace. Florida is among 21 states with a “Stand Your Ground” law already in place.
In Sanford, Florida today – an afternoon rally is planned before Trayvon Martin’s parents are expected to take their concerns before a meeting of the Sanford City Commission.