On Saturday morning about 150 people talked about the killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his shooter George Zimmerman, neighborhood safety, racial discrimination, and a range of issues.
The discussion didn’t happen at a loud or violent protest. The conversation took place at an Exposition Park meeting room around 17 table cloth-draped round tables. All tables included a moderator and some included LAPD captains and beat officers, the US Attorney for the Central District of California, LA County’s Sheriff, an LA County Supervisor, senior citizens, and many other people.
“At my table there’s a lawyer, a student, a reverend, and myself a doctor of education,” said Kelli DuCloux, a retired educator with the LA County Office of Education.
DuCloux said taking part in the “Days of Dialogues” event titled “The Death of Trayvon Martin: Unfinished Business” gave her ideas about how to channel her anger about the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. The event was organized by LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the LA group Empowerment Congress.
“This is a methodology that we’ve used for many years, starting with the O.J. Simpson verdicts, that causes those who want to have a serious conversation about the crises that confront us,” Ridley-Thomas said.
At one of the tables Andrew Henderson, a co-chair of the Empowerment Congress, told others of an incident of racial discrimination while he was a student at UC Santa Cruz in the mid 1970s. A group of white men yelled out the n-word to him off campus. He couldn’t believe how blatant the incident was. “Someone commented at the table that we shouldn’t be selling utopia, that we may achieve, raise our families, but that discrimination will not be eliminated,” Henderson said.
At another table U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte criticized Florida’s “Stand your ground” law, at the table next to that a senior citizen worried about how to keep her neighborhood safe. Activists heard an LAPD captain talk about a recent gun-violence arrest that involved a robbery victim running out of his home and shooting the suspected thief. The captain said officers arrested both and presented the case to the district attorney for prosecution.
After the dialogues some participants addressed the entire gathering with hand held microphones. Organizers wanted to hear whether the discussions where productive. Some talked about tense interaction with police while others talked about the senseless death of a teenager who’d gone to buy a bag of Skittles and a soda.
“It destroyed a life but created a movement. This dialogue is the movement to action,” said Sharon Lyle of Long Beach.
This event is one of four organized around the Trayvon Martin killing. One took place last week. Two more are set for August 11 in Santa Monica and August 17 in LA’s West Adams district.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Andre Birotte's first name. KPCC regrets the error.