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Originally published March 25, 2012 at 9:13 PM | Page modified March 26, 2012 at 10:07 AM

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About 2,000 march in Seattle to protest Florida teen's killing

About 2,000 people marched in Seattle on Sunday to protest the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida youth whose killing by a neighborhood crime-watch captain has ignited a national furor.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Some 2,000 people marched in Seattle on Sunday to protest the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida youth whose killing by a neighborhood crime-watch captain has ignited a national furor.

"I AM TRAYVON MARTIN," read one sign in the crowd, the same words that a packed audience at Greater Mount Baker Baptist Church shouted loudly and repeatedly in unison before the march began.

Many wore hooded sweatshirts — commonly called hoodies — because that is what Martin was wearing when he died. And some held bags of Skittles candy and cans of iced tea because that was what the unarmed African-American youth was carrying when he was confronted by the watch leader, George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old son of a white father and Hispanic mother.

"Our blackness is not a crime," the Rev. Harriet Walden, who founded Mothers for Police Accountability in Seattle 22 years ago, told the crowd.

Martin was killed in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, sparking a growing reaction across the country centered on racial profiling and justice.

Zimmerman, who shot the youth amid reports of burglaries in the community and who claimed self-defense, has not been arrested. State and federal authorities have launched investigations into the shooting, which occurred after Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious hooded figure walking in the neighborhood. Martin had been visiting his father in the gated community.

On Sunday, African-American churches across the nation amplified the calls for justice.

In Seattle, the marchers traveled late Sunday afternoon from the church on South Jackson Street near 23rd Avenue South to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park more than a mile south.

Walden's group sponsored the event, along with others including the Baptist church, the Seattle and King County branch of the NAACP and American Friends Services Committee, a Quaker organization.

Among those who attended was 83-year-old Justus L. Singleton, of Bellevue, who said he wasn't sure he would complete the march but felt compelled to try.

"I'll go as far as I can," said Singleton, who carried a sign reading, "We are ALL Trayvon Martin."

"I don't want to see this kind of injustice continuing," he said. "We've had enough of it. I emphasize we."

At the other end of the age spectrum, 10-year-old Kaileah Mayer, of Seattle, turned out with her father, Ed Mayer, who recalled that at about her age, his mother took him to Temple University in Philadelphia to hear Huey Newton, a Black Panther founder.

"This is important for her," Mayer said of his daughter who held a sign reading, "NEXT TIME IT COULD BE YOUR SON."

"It is part of our history," the father added.

James Bible, the president of the local NAACP, said that as a result of the shooting, his nephew started an anti-racism program at Odle Middle School in Bellevue.

Bible joined other speakers at the park in decrying Martin's killing.

"Words do not do justice to what was stolen from humanity," Bible told the racially mixed crowd, noting that Martin's parents had the same hopes and dreams of any parent.

"They named him Trayvon," Bible said.

Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School, invoked the name of 14-year-old Emmett Till, the victim of a 1955 lynching that raised awareness about the brutal realities of Jim Crow laws.

"Let Trayvon be our Emmett, too," Hagopian told the crowd.

At the church rally preceding the march, the Rev. Kenneth Ransfer, the congregation's pastor, led the crowd in chants.

"Justice for the Martin family" and "Arrest George Zimmerman now," those in the church shouted in response to his cries.

But Ransfer, who wore a white hoodie and held up Skittles and iced tea, cautioned, "Let justice do its job."

Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

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