More than 1,000 people gathered outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Court House in downtown Washington on July 20 to rally against the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.
“I want to see my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community stand up for the memory of Trayvon Martin,” Dr. E. Faye Williams, national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, said.
Rev. Ronald Braxton of the Metropolitan AME Church in Northwest D.C.; talk show host Joe Madison and Lennox W. Abrigo, president of the Washington chapter of the National Action Network, are among those who spoke at the rally. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and former Army Lt. Dan Choi also attended.
Civil rights advocate and comedian Dick Gregory appeared to speak out against marriage rights for same-sex couples at the start of his remarks. He also suggested George Washington was a cross-dresser.
“Talk about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ you better tell that to George Washington with those tight silk pants, wearing high shoes, ruffled shirt, a wig and some polish,” Gregory said as some rally attendees laughed. “That’s been going on for a long time.”
The D.C. rally was among the 100 events the National Action Network, which the Rev. Al Sharpton founded, that took place around the country a week after a Sanford, Fla., jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter in the February 2012 shooting death of the unarmed Martin.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Sharpton are among those who attended a rally in lower Manhattan at which Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, spoke. Other gatherings took place in Richmond, Va., and Annapolis, Md., on July 20.
“Trayvon could have been any gay or lesbian kid of color,” Rev. Meredith Moise of Baltimore told the Washington Blade on July 21 as she discussed why she feels it is important for LGBT people to speak out against the Zimmerman verdict. “The LGBTQ community must show solidarity by raising voices against racial profiling and bias. It is also time that we look at racism within the LGBTQ community and make a commitment to end racism within our own ranks.”
The Task Force is among the 34 national LGBT advocacy organizations that include the Human Rights Campaign and the National Black Justice Coalition that signed onto a joint statement they issued on July 15 that said Martin “deserves justice and his civil rights.” The groups’ statement stopped short of calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to charge Zimmerman under federal civil rights laws as the National Coalition for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has done.
President Obama on July 19 again spoke out against the verdict during a surprise appearance in the White House press room.
“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama said.
Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, told the Washington Blade as he attended the D.C. rally that he feels it is important for LGBT Americans to stand in solidarity with African Americans on this issue.
“Our own community crosses every other line of diversity in this country,” he said, noting NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous and Revs. Dennis and Christine Wiley of Covenant Baptist Church of Christ in Southwest D.C. and Rev. Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., are among those who support marriage rights for same-sex couples. “We are connected to one another inextricably, like it or not. And we damn well better stand together or we will have hell to pay.”