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Chester residents take stand against violence

Slippery streets didn’t deter Anthony Hicks from walking through downtown Chester on Saturday, carrying a sign that blames violence, not racism, for the murder of a Florida teenager.

The cause behind the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin isn’t as simple as “black or white,” Hicks said.

The problem, he said, is violence.

“If Trayvon Martin can be shot down for wearing a hoodie, anybody can,” he said. “It’s Trayvon Martin today, John Smith tomorrow.”

Hicks joined 19 other supporters as they marched nearly two miles in Chester, a demonstration organizers said they hoped would shed negative images of youth and discourage hostility.

It’s for that very reason that Michael Chisholm, 27, snacked on a bag of Skittles and clutched a can of iced tea – the items Martin purchased from a convenience store just before his death.

Founder of “A Few Good Men”, a youth empowerment and mentoring program, Chisholm helped organize Chester’s own version of a hoodie march, dubbed “March 4 No Madness.”

“It’s something that’s definitely needed in our community,” said Curtis Little, co-founder of “A Few Good Men.”

“We’re here to collaboratively show our support for our communitywe’re all one community.”

Little, who grew up in Chester, said he faced many obstacles while young and got into some trouble.

His hope is to give Chester’s youth an alternative to the streets.

Youth such as 15-year-old Malik Woods and his twin sister, Sharik, marched for Martin.

“He shouldn’t have been shot because he looked suspicious,” Sharik said.

Robin Chisholm sported a pink “A Few Good Men” t-shirt and said she too is sick of violence stealing the lives of young men such as Trayvon Martin.

“It’s a sad case,” Robin said. “A young boy lost his life for what – a pack of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona iced tea?”

Minutes before the march, supporters huddled in the parking lot, making signs blaring “I Am Trayvon Martin” and “Stop the Madness.”

One man wore a sign reading, “I Am Trayvon Martin’s brother by love” over his own hoodie.

Flora Buckson, a 63-year-old resident with multiple sclerosis, wore a sign that said, “I Am Trayvon Martin’s grandmother.”

Buckson has a 17-year-old grandson who she said has been on the receiving end of brutality.

She’s also familiar with harsh treatment.

While living in Maryland, she worked with juvenile delinquents. She said authorities charged her with assault when she restrained a 14-year-old boy after he tried to harm himself and other kids.

Since the incident occurred, George Zimmerman, the man accused of shooting Martin, has maintained he acted in self-defense after Martin attacked him.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are probing the incident.

Martin’s death has also inspired countless vigils and rallies around the nation. The one in Chester on Saturday featured few hoodies.

On the ready were members of the Chester City Police Department.

“Better safe than sorry,” said Chief of Police Andre Williams, who said officials wanted to make sure gangs and critics didn’t use the march as an opportunity to act.

As marchers walked, employees at stores and hair salons watched and waved. Near Walnut Street, others joined the march including Russell Worthy, who has three sons and said he wants to support “the young people.”

“We don’t want any of our kids hurt for any reason, whether it’s something little or major” said Worthy, 49. “When we’re gone, they have to carry on. They can’t carry on behind bars or from the graveyard.”

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