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Article updated: 7/28/2013 12:53 PM

People at Elgin rally call for 'justice for Trayvon'

By Elena Ferrarin

Fourteen-year-old Myanna Rodgers held a sign saying "Justice for Trayvon" on Saturday and chanted along with other protesters in Elgin who demanded the repeal of stand-your-ground self-defense laws.

Myanna, who pumped her fist in the air every time a car honked in approval, was among about 30 people who gathered at the protest organized by the group Occupy Elgin at the corner of Grove Avenue and Kimball Street, across from Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.

Myanna said she and her three cousins, ages 8 to 12, wore hoodies to symbolize their support for Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who wore a hoodie when he was shot and killed in February 2012.

"The message is, 'Stop racial profiling,' and 'Don't judge someone by the way they dress,'" Myanna said.

A Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges in Martin's death earlier this month.

Florida adopted its stand-your-ground law in 2005; among other things, the law eliminated the duty to retreat before using deadly force. Illinois doesn't have such a law.

"Many of us felt sick at the verdict. We felt it was just so unjust," Occupy Elgin organizer Mary Shesgreen said. "There is a double standard of justice. Poor people, and especially people of color, are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be prosecuted -- and more likely to get poor legal defense."

The protest was justice for everyone, regardless of race, resident Bennie Sowers said.

"We're not asking for special favors. We're just asking to be treated equal," she said. "To fight this, we need to come together as one. We are all in this together, so we better learn how to get along."

Not everyone agreed with the demonstrators.

Algonquin resident Jeff Gibbs and his son Jonathan were on their way back from a bike ride to St. Charles when they passed by the protesters. Both said the Zimmerman jury made the right decision.

"The facts supported that he could have used deadly force if he was beaten within an inch of his life," Jeff Gibbs said. "I'm not for repealing stand-your-ground laws. It's our constitutional right to defend ourselves."

The protest wasn't just about the Zimmerman case, but about the injustices perpetrated by the justice system, beginning with racial profiling, Elgin attorney Traci Ellis said.

"I am not troubled as much by the letter of the law as I am by the application of the law," Ellis said. "We are entering an era I call 'Jim Crow Jr.,'" she added, pointing to the things such as a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

As for the solution, Ellis said she believes it begins with talking candidly about racism. "We have to be bold enough to talk about it," she said.

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