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From a tragic incident in Florida, a peaceful rally in Minnesota

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By Mitch Traphagen

WORTHINGTON, MINN - A Florida woman who recently moved to a rural community in Minnesota felt compelled to speak out against what she saw as an injustice that had taken place in her hometown.

Patricia Lawrence, formerly of Sanford, Florida, organized a peaceful rally in her adopted community of Worthington, Minnesota, a town nearly 1,600 miles away, to increase awareness for what she saw as an injustice in the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy in Sanford in February. A multi-racial crowd of several dozen people carried signs and demonstrated their support for the Trayvon Martin family that few, if any, in attendance had ever met. Many wore hoodies that served not only as protection from the brisk wind, but also to highlight that people should not be judged simply by what garments they choose to wear. Some people believe that Martin was targeted for both being black and for wearing a hoodie on the night that he was shot to death.

The February shooting death of Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has ignited a firestorm of interest, controversy and criticism, both nationally and globally. The incident has also appeared to open new racial and even political rifts. The neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin in the chest with a 9mm pistol was charged on Wednesday with seond-degree murder. Martin was returning to a home at which he was a guest from a trip to a nearby convenience store and was carrying only his cell phone, a bag of Skittles candy and a can of iced tea when he was shot on February 26.

The incident has also sparked a national debate over Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, with lawmakers in Tallahassee closely watching the case to determine if changes need to be made to the law.

Far away from Sanford, the 30 to 50 people in attendance at the rally in Minnesota chanted, “Know justice, know peace.”  Many in attendance were young people and several carried signs in honor of Martin. One young Caucasian man walked with a sign asking if he was safer because he was white and if so, why?  The rally served to illustrate the far-reaching nature of the incident.

Despite being a small, rural community, Worthington is a highly integrated community with residents from several nationalities. It is estimated that 18 languages are spoken by students in the area schools.

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