At 78th and Racine, dozens of prayer warriors gathered in the street Sunday and pledged to God – and each other – to wage war against the “demon of violence.”
They armed themselves with Skittles – the fruity candy found on the body of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Florida fatally shot last month by a neighborhood watch captain who has not been charged with the boy’s death. The shooter told a 911 operator Trayvon, who was wearing a white hooded sweat shirt, appeared suspicious before shooting the 17-year-old.
Outside St. Sabina church, the group stood in protest of Trayvon’s murder, the law that protects his killer and the underlying racism many people associate with the fatal shooting.
On the sidewalk, Minister Melech Thomas prayed to God with vengeance.
“We come to you with tears in our eyes . . . in a readiness to fight,” said Thomas, 24, in a prayer. “We refuse to stay down, beat down by the demon of violence, whether we find it in racial profiling or black-on-black violence in the city.”
Thomas, a Howard University graduate who is black, then held up a pack of Skittles and spoke directly to a TV news camera: “America, does this make me look suspicious?”
Trayvon’s slaying has struck a nerve nationally and has brought heavy scrutiny on Florida’s “stand your ground” law – which allows a person in fear of bodily harm to use force, even deadly force, in the face of a perceived threat. Florida police officials have said the law may protect the man who shot Trayvon, George Zimmerman, from facing murder charges.
“We have to identify with what’s happening in Florida because it’s happening here,” St. Sabina pastor the Rev. Michael Pfleger said. “Laws like ‘stand your ground’ are evil. We need them out . . . and make sure they don’t come to Chicago. If Trayvon’s death does not wake us up to deal with violence here, then Trayvon’s death was in vain.”
Pfleger said he hopes Trayvon’s death “lights a fuse that wakes up America” to deal with the culture of violence and pervasive racism.
“There is no question in my mind . . . that would have not happened if Trayvon was a white kid, walking down the street with some Skittles and an iced tea,” Pfleger said with a pack of Skittles in his hand and wearing a white hooded sweat shirt – similar to the one Trayvon had on when he was shot – over his purple and gold vestments.
“Enough children have died … Break the code of silence. Come out on your street corner. Get rid of these laws that are covering the murders and deal with racism in America.”