Students rally in support of Trayvon Martin

Students and members of the Mason community rallied in Mason's North Plaza in honor of Trayvon Martin. (Jake McLernon and Trevor DeSaussure)

Many wearing hoodies and nametags with the message, “Hello my name is Trayvon,” over one hundred students rallied Friday morning on Mason’s North Plaza in honor of Trayvon Martin.

The rally began at 11 a.m. in the hallway outside of the Johnson Center Bistro where attendees were given a bag of Skittles and the described nametags. More students joined the group as they marched in two single-file lines starting at 2 p.m. through the Johnson Center and outside into North Plaza.

Once outside, the group formed a circle and held hands with some participants breaking out of the circle and offering their thoughts about the incident involving Martin.

Martin, a 17-year-old African-American teenager, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida on Feb. 26. The shooter, George Zimmerman, allegedly shot Martin in self-defense during a physical altercation.

Following Martin's death, public debate has arisen concerning what actually transpired that evening with many calling for a more thorough investigation into the events leading up to the fatal gunshot.

Other universities around the nation have held demonstrations in support of Martin, including recent rallies at the UNC and USC campuses.

Mason senior Britt Wright, who organized the rally at Mason, said students discussed how other families might experience a similar tragedy.

“I think about the mother that doesn’t have those resources…where it’s just they bury their son and can’t reach out to contact the NAACP or places like that,” Wright said.

Several students at the rally also said that while the incident involving Trayvon Martin has been getting consistent news coverage, similar deaths are happening all the time.

“This type of stuff happens every day,” said Bryon Allen, a Mason sophomore and member of the men’s basketball team. “It takes one little incident like this to blow up where everyone comes together”

Mark Hopson, assistant professor of communications, was among members of the faculty present at the rally and said the core of this issue—the death of a young man, transcends debates about race.

“It takes everybody’s interest, it takes everybody’s effort,” said Hopson. “This [incident] is more than a black thing or a white thing.”

Hopson had previously attended the “Mason Man March,” an event which Wright also organized. That march, inspired by the 1995 Million Man March which sought to bring awareness to social and economic issues facing the African-American community, was held during Black History Month in February.

Wright credited the organization of Friday's rally to social media.

“We’re always being taught the power of social media. I didn’t text anybody. I didn’t get on Facebook and make an event,” Wright said. “I tweeted.”

According to Wright, he received an immediate response from students and friends who wanted to participate and help plan a rally. He then tweeted a meeting time and location where students could discuss their approach to the event.

The hashtag #GMU4Trayvon was also created during conversation about the rally on Twitter.

While pleased with the turnout, Wright said he would have been satisfied with one person taking away something positive and sharing it with someone else.

“If one person came, that’s one person [who] could’ve told 20 people within a week. Those 20 people tell 40 people. Forty people tell 80 people,” said Wright. “It’s not quantity, it’s quality, because quality will bring quantity.”

Disclosure: Wright has recently begun to do work with Connect2Mason on our new live news program, Late Night Patriot. Connect2Mason was not involved with the rally.


UPDATE: Tuesday, April 3, 4:34 p.m.

C2M would like to note that Elizabeth McDougal, Alexandra Walker, Robert Hiter, Sabrina Stephenson, Jon Swann, Titus Burton, Lavell Handy, and Tiffany Ganthier were also involved in planning the Trayvon Martin rally at Mason.

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