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Diverse crowd rallies in wake of Florida shooting

New Hampshire Sunday News

March 31. 2012 10:37PM
Sandy Trask, 10, from Tamworth, holds a sign with his mom, Laura, during a protest for Trayvon Martin case on Saturday at Veterans Park in Manchester. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - People of different races joined forces for a rally and march Saturday protesting the fact that a mixed white-Hispanic man has not been arrested for shooting an unarmed black teenager in Florida last month.

'For me, I don't look at it as a black or white issue, but what is right,' said Tureka Chapman, who has been the target of a racial slur since moving from North Carolina to Manchester a year or so ago. 'Right is right; wrong is wrong.'

Chapman, who is African-American, her fiance and two young sons joined about 75 others for the rally at Veterans Memorial Park.

'I think today's message is injustice for anybody is injustice for everybody,' said co-organizer Woullard Lett of Manchester.

In Sanford, Fla., George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, acknowledged shooting Trayvon Martin after Zimmerman reported a suspicious person and followed him. Zimmerman hasn't been charged in the shooting.

Carol Backus of Manchester remembers growing up as a white girl in segregated Mississippi in the 1940s.

'I thought I had outlived this thing,' she said, referring to racism. 'I am so shocked and so appalled this could still happen.'

Co-organizer Mark Provost said he hopes a larger event with 10 times as many people can be held in the next month. Provost has organized some Occupy NH protests, but said this was not an Occupy event. A posting on Facebook advertised the rally.

In addressing the crowd, Provost said: 'Many of us have been silent for too long.'

More than 15 people spoke out, recalling how the Florida case affected them or offering its potential broader implications.

C.J. Perez, a football coach with the Manchester East Cobras, said people of different races need to consider themselves members of the same society with shared interests and struggles.

'If somebody moves into our community, I barbecue and bring food over,' Perez said. 'I don't want them to be afraid.'

Curtis Smith, a retired administrator from Southern New Hampshire University, recalled protesting for black civil rights as a graduate student at Syracuse University in 1962.

'Off and on, I've been trying to protest injustice for 50 years,' said Smith, who is white and retired in 2008. 'I could be perfecting my golf swing, but that's not what life is about.'

Manchester physician Sarah Alier, a refugee from Sudan who resettled in New Hampshire in 1999, said she is in the United States because of war.

'The war took everything from me. Took away my dreams,' she said. 'What's a war? One angry person' who spreads anger to more people.

She urged that the violence stop. 'Do not destroy the world, please,' Alier said.

Richard Komi, a former refugee from the Republic of Benin in Africa, said Zimmerman needs to face trial.

'We should not try this case in the court of public opinion,' Komi said. 'Mr. Zimmerman needs to answer for his actions (in court).'

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