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November 28, 2014

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Las Vegans express frustration, dismay at Trayvon Martin rally

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblywoman Dina Neal speaks during a rally on the one week anniversary of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin Saturday, July 20, 2013.

Trayvon Martin Rally

Vena Davis holds a sign during a rally on the one week anniversary of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin Saturday, July 20, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Nickia Davis’ voice echoed down Las Vegas Boulevard on Saturday morning as she marched about 100 demonstrators from the Heart Attack Grill to the U.S. Courthouse.

“No justice,” she shouted into a bullhorn, “no peace!”

Children and adults alike followed, bellowing the mantra with her amidst the honking horns of supportive drivers as they walked. Once at the courthouse, the crowd met up with about 200 other people there for a “Justice for Trayvon” vigil.

Three hundred men and women united by the same chant; their voices joined by those in 100 other cities across America as part of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s National Action Network “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and vigils.

Davis organized the Las Vegas march following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. The ruling left her disheartened and disappointed with the judicial system, but she knew the verdict was far from the final word.

Davis said the march is a call to action, to encourage people to make their voices heard in a fight for justice.

“I wanted to gather everyone from all walks of life together and be able to walk as one down to the federal courthouse and be a part of the vigil that is taking place (in) 100 cities,” Davis said. “I want to be part of that, a part of being the voice in change.”

The rally comes one week after a jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the death of 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense, was acquitted of both second-degree murder and manslaughter. The ruling has sparked debates about gun control, race relations and some states' so-called Stand Your Ground laws.

Many of the demonstrators held signs or wore T-shirts in remembrance of Martin. Some were angry by Zimmerman’s acquittal, others discouraged by the justice system. After a prayer, the crowd broke into a rising chorus of James Weldon Johnson’s song often considered the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us/Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us ...

Lou Collins, manager of the Pearson Community Center, then addressed the crowd.

“Make sure in Las Vegas we send a message around the nation that we, too, feel the injustice,” he said.

Jennifer Roberts said she was angered at first by the verdict, but later realized nothing would change by being angry, so she joined the rally.

“Talk is cheap if you don’t do anything about it,” Roberts said.

Marcus Rutledge, 16, led a group of kids from his mother’s Striving to Achieve Real Success youth camp in a call-and-response supporting Martin. Rutledge said the verdict has left many of his peers frustrated.

“I really can’t say I know (Martin), but I think all kids deserve to live,” said Rutledge, who attends Rancho High School. “My parents say we can all do something, we can all make a positive impact on the environment.”

Melissa Finnell said she tries to attend as many events in support of Martin as possible. She marched with a group Tuesday and attended a community forum Wednesday at the Pearson Community Center.

“I feel like I’m able to help do something to make a difference,” Finnell said, “to let people know how we feel about this.”

Saturday's rally is the largest she’s attended. Finnell hopes the large turnout will make people hear their voices.

“Some people think only black people pay attention to this,” Finnell said. “Stuff like this, everybody here, shows that other people care about this, too. It shows everyone that this goes on, racism exists.”

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