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Originally published Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 7:43 PM

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Seattle holds marches to protest Trayvon Martin's death, local violence

Marches were held in Seattle on Saturday to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin and local violence. Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll told one crowd that "kids need to be able to walk home from school."

Seattle Times staff reporter

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As a crowd of young people, parents, grandparents, teachers and pastors marched down Rainier Avenue South on Saturday, trying to rally their community against violence, the names of the dead were with them.

There was Desmond Jackson, 22, shot in February outside a Seattle nightclub; there was Diaquan Jones, 16, shot in late 2008 at a mall; and Alajawan Brown, 12, gunned down in the spring of 2010 as he was returning home from buying a pair of football cleats.

In a pink fuzzy hat and a butter-yellow jacket, Gracie Williams, 70, a great-aunt of Jackson, marched with the crowd.

"I'm marching against murder," she said. "I don't see just my pain any more. It's not just about Desmond," who was beloved by his extended family, she said. "There's something going on about murder and violence."

The march and rally, sponsored by a coalition of youth-violence-prevention organizations, drew students from public and private schools around the South Seattle area, including Rainier Beach, Franklin and Seattle Urban Academy.

Many wore T-shirts distributed by Paul Patu and his Urban Family Center. "Who's Next?" the shirts proclaimed, an apparent reference to Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida youth killed in February.

But Patu, the son of Seattle School Board member Betty Patu, who helped organize the march and rally, said his work came long before that killing.

"The truth of the matter is that youth violence has been in our community for a while," Patu said.

Also on Saturday, a separate group marched from Mount Zion Baptist Church to downtown, in protest of Martin's death. Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer who told police he fired in self-defense. Martin, who was walking home from a convenience store after buying Skittles and iced tea, was unarmed.

Cedric President-Turner, an 18-year-old Tacoma high-school student who is a second cousin of Martin's, told more than a hundred people gathered in Westlake Park: "We are not going to stop. We are going to keep fighting until justice is served for everyone."

African-American students from middle school and high school took the microphone and spoke of not wanting to live in fear.

James Bible, president of the local NAACP, the protest's sponsor, spoke of how Martin's death was not an isolated case. He summoned the 1955 slaying of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi, along with more recent deaths in Sacramento and Chicago. "Prepare for marches all summer," Bible said. "Change is going to come."

At the gathering sponsored by the youth-violence-prevention organizations, a crowd of about 130, chanting "No More Violence," ebbed and flowed, picking up young men in baggy pants and girls chatting on cellphones as it made its way to Rainier Beach High School for an outside rally in the sunshine.

Along the way, pastors stopped the crowd to offer prayers and exhortations via bullhorn.

"Evil prevails when good people do nothing!" shouted Pastor Washington Talaga, of the Inner City Church of Hope.

The pastors, said Pastor Gary Hay Sr., of Lost Sheep Ministries, are trying to help young people climb over the "fool's hill," those years between 13 and 20 when foolish choices made under pressure from peers can change — or end — a life forever.

At the high school, Ayanna Brown talked about the pain she felt when her 12-year-old son, Alajawan, was killed, simply for wearing a blue jacket, she said.

The kids clapped enthusiastically at speeches from dignitaries, including Mayor Mike McGinn, who noted a spike in deaths this year. "We are at a time of reckoning in this city," he said.

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll told the crowd that "kids need to be able to walk home from school."

Carroll last year began a campaign called A Better Seattle to raise awareness and funds to prevent youth violence. It has partnered with Metrocenter YMCA's Alive & Free, one of the sponsors of Saturday's rally.

Changing the status quo will require speaking from the heart to help change one person at a time, Carroll said. It won't be easy, he warned, "and it's going to get harder."

Seattle Times reporter Ken Armstrong contributed to this story.

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @costrom.

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