December 21, 2014

Kansas City, St. Louis mayors say Zimmerman verdict should prompt bigger discussion about gun violence

Mayor Sly James, Kansas City, Mo., is urging his community to work toward peace as George Zimmerman is acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin in Seminole County, Fla.

“This verdict doesn’t change the fact that here in Kansas City, gun violence claims the lives of too many people,” James said in a press release. “No amount of anger, violence, disruption, or media sensationalism will bring back Trayvon Martin.  This case highlighted what we all know – gun violence does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter how young you are, what color you are, where you live, or how much money you make – the results can be deadly when guns and emotions combine.  I expect Kansas Citians to remember that the common vision we have for this city is greater than any of the issues, perceived or real, that divide us. By remaining focused on the community goal of reducing gun violence, we can prevent more tragedy from taking place in our city.  That truly is the best way to honor the memory of any victim of gun violence, including Trayvon Martin and the hundreds of other lesser known victims.”

In St. Louis, a crowd gathered near the St. Louis Justice Center to rally, chant, and pray.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) said she cried when she heard the verdict.

Nasheed told the St. Louis Beacon that she “knew that justice was going to take its course. I believed that in my heart.” But she said “after seeing the verdict, justice was not blind and not balanced.”

“It brought racial profiling to the forefront,” Nasheed said. “And all of us should be doing all that we can do to make sure that this never happens again. Because he was an innocent man. And the only thing he wanted was some Skittles and tea – and he wanted just to go back home. And for Zimmerman to profile him, stalk him and follow him after the dispatch told him not to do that, he didn’t follow the law.”

In a statement on his Facebook page, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said his “prayers are with the Martin family.”

“A young person died senselessly,” Slay wrote. “His death, the trial, the verdict, the law — these must be elements of a national discussion about violence, guns, race, and the kind of country we want to be.”

President Obama called the death of Martin a tragedy, but said, “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”

“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son,” Obama said. “And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.  We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.  We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this.”

The following is a video shot by Jason Rosenbaum from the rally in St. Louis.