Repercussions from the fatal shooting of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin will be felt in Austin next year, state Senator Royce West told hundreds of demonstrators who gathered at Paul Quinn College today to mourn and demand justice for the 17-year-old.
"We've come together today, but what will we do tomorrow?" West told the demonstrators, some of them in tears. "A couple of things. I'm going to ask the lieutenant governor of the state of Texas to have the Criminal Justice Committee of the Senate to study the castle doctrine in light of the Trayvon Martin assassination immediately.
"As we move toward the next legislative session, I will be authoring a bill in order to limit the application of the castle doctrine in situations like this," West said. "You need to be in Austin also, to make sure your voice is heard ... when we sponsor the Trayvon Martin Law."
The castle doctrine is a general term applied to the rationale behind laws -- like one in Texas -- that offer wide legal protection to people who kill and claim self-defense. Martin, who was black, was shot dead on February 26 in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman, 28, a white, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who claimed he shot Martin in self defense. Sanford police did not arrest Zimmerman. Martin was unarmed, carrying only a bag of Skittles and bottle of tea.
While hundreds gathered at Paul Quinn, thousands of protesters rallied in Sanford to call for Zimmerman's arrest.
Martin's killing and the police's inaction has reopened questions about racism across the country and prompted an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
In Dallas, Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell said that Martin's death "has touched all of our lives, and all of our souls. "
"I have a 22-month-old son," Sorrell said. "This cannot be the world he grows up in."
Paul Quinn students passed out bags of Skittles and copies of the Florida's "stand your ground" law, the state's version of the castle doctrine.
While some in the crowd wept, speakers stressed that hatred was not the way to justice. Radio station K104 co-hosted the event, and on-air personality Lady J stressed that Martin's killing "is not a black or white thing. This is a right or wrong thing. ... Don't allow your anger let you become prejudiced to someone else."
Last to speak was Dexter Evans, a junior at Paul Quinn who asked Sorrell to organize the event.
"Mr. Zimmerman was in my generation. Eighties and '90s babies," he said in disbelief. "And we're still facing these problems today."
After leading the audience in the Lord's Prayer, Evans started chanting as he pumped his fist with every syllable, his fingers clasped around a bag of Skittles. He then led the rally in a march around through the campus, chanting in time.
"We want justice!" they yelled. "Justice for Trayvon!"