Jessica Dunlap, co-owner of the Coal Yard Restaurant, considers herself a funny person, someone who can always crack a joke.
But when she sat down with her friend Steve Love, a member of the state branch of the NAACP, to talk about the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, she couldn’t say anything.
“There was not a word we could even think of to describe it,” she said Sunday.
According to reports, Martin was walking through a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman shot and killed him. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch member, has maintained that Martin attacked him, and he was acting in self-defense when he shot him.
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The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are looking into the incident. But Zimmerman has yet to be charged with any crime.
The case inspired Dunlap to put together Sunday’s Hundred Hoodie Rally at the Coal Yard Restaurant in York. About 40 people attended the rally.
While Dunlap said York’s rally is definitely smaller than rallies in other cities, she said it’s still important to pursue justice for Martin.
“What happened in Sanford could easily happen here,” Dunlap said. She talked to the crowd about an incident earlier this month in which at least three men were firing at each other from passing cars on California Street. The suspects led police on a brief chase before they were arrested.
She commended York police and residents for handling the incident in a way that ended with no major injuries or deaths.
“Pursuing justice for Trayvon Martin is going to be a long road,” she said. “I urge each and every one of you to see it to the end and keep this child’s name constantly in your mouth. If you’re a praying person, keep his family in your prayers.”
She offered ways to help prevent incidents like this from happening in York, including challenging stereotypes and getting to know your neighbor.
“The biggest thing, especially in this day and age, we don’t take the time to get to know each other,” she said. “You don’t know your neighbor, their name, anything about them. Don’t assume because someone looks a certain way that they are what you assume.”
Love, executive board member and program research chair for the state’s NAACP, took the microphone and called the Martin shooting one of the “most unjust situations I’ve ever seen.”
He also encouraged the community to turn its focus to preventing “black-on-black” crime as well.
Friends Jamerson Magwood and Ronald Campbell attended the rally.
“This tragedy has really upset me, on an emotional and societal level,” Magwood said. “We live in a country, a society, that respects local law enforcement and due process. In this scenario, due process did not happen.”
Magwood said the rally gave him a chance to reflect on the incident.
“I don’t want people to look at this as something of anger,” he said. “It should be for reflection. ...We can’t let these things idly sit there.”
“I feel like this is an event that happened that didn’t have to take place,” Campbell said. “It was unnecessary.”
He hoped reflection would act as a catalyst for change on a personal and societal level, he added.
Lisa Stewart, a York resident, helped organize a similar rally at her school, Converse College. Like Magwood, she pointed out how she doesn’t feel the proper legal process was used in the Martin incident.
Even though the rally didn’t reach the 100-mark, Stewart still felt the impact.
“Even if it’s just us, we can remind each other as friends,” she said, referring to Dunlap’s calls to pray and pursue justice for Martin. “At least we can come away inspired.”
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