By SAMAIA HERNANDEZ
The Hartford Courant
March 31, 2012
Protesters huddled around a podium at a North End intersection, braving the rain
and raw temperatures Saturday morning to engage in what has become an
international conversation on racism.
The killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black student in Sanford,
Fla., who was shot by a neighborhood watch guard on Feb. 26, is just one example
of the effects of racism in the United States, according to more than 100 who
clapped and chanted for justice.
Martin's death prompted activists to call for fair policing in Connecticut,
better parenting in city homes and a renewed focus on education — which they
said have all been polluted by racism.
"This happened during the day. Where should [Martin] have been?" asked Hartford
City Councilman Kyle K. Anderson, standing on the corner of Albany Avenue and
Main Street. "In school, getting his education."
Martin had been suspended from school at the time of the shooting.
The rally in the North End was just one of several in Connecticut on Saturday.
Activists also gathered in front of the Capitol building and at campuses in New
Haven and Storrs.
Many of the protesters linked the killing to racial profiling.
"Racial profiling has a trickle-down effect on the general public, which
leads to hate crimes," said Mary Sanders, a member of the Community Party in
Hartford. "The best way for folks to honor Trayvon's memory is to protect the
Trayvons in Connecticut by supporting change to Connecticut's racial profiling
The Courant, in a recent look at more than 100,000 traffic stops reported in
Connecticut towns, found that Hispanic and African American drivers were much
more apt to get a ticket than whites — for the same offenses.
The legislature's Judiciary Committee this month approved amendments to the
state's anti-racial-profiling law that would require the state Office of Policy
and Management to develop a standardized form to be used during police stops,
and would shift to OPM the responsibility for analyzing the information gathered
on those forms. Proponents argue that the changes will improve compliance and
assure that police departments are held accountable if they mistreat motorists.
On Saturday, however, a diverse crowd was in agreement that action must be taken
to combat racism.
"We thought that with the election of President Obama that racism would end.
Racism is still alive in this country," Mayor Pedro E. Segarra said.
"It looks like there needs to be some federal intervention here," Segarra said
of Martin's case.
Segarra said his father was shot to death at age 19, a victim of what he called
Frank O'Gorman, a member of the Queer Liberation Front, linked the teen's
killing to what he said was the white supremacy influencing police, courts,
government and education.
"Sanford is Connecticut, where African Americans and Latinos make up 23
percent of the general population but 80 percent of the prison population. Now
that looks suspicious," he said.
Sixteen-year-old Kejuan Williams said he doesn't worry about local police
treating him fairly. He said he feels safe in his hometown of Enfield, but has
concerns about safety in Hartford.
"It's a very tragic story," Williams said, who joined protesters across the
country donned in hoodies to symbolize racial stereotypes. "The fact that
[Martin] was young, he was a normal kid, and he likes Skittles."