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Protesters rally at courthouse to demand “Justice for Jordan Davis”

By staff

Trial of racist killer begins

Protesters stand outside the trial demanding Justice for Jordan Davis.

Jacksonville, FL – Over 35 protesters gathered here outside of the Duval County Courthouse, Feb. 4, for the first day of jury selection in the trial of Michael Dunn, the racist killer of 17-year-old African American youth Jordan Davis. Holding signs and chanting together, the crowd demanded “Justice for Jordan” and the conviction of Dunn.

The case has drawn national attention for its similarities to the murder of Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Dunn shot and killed Davis in November 2012 at a Gate gas station in Jacksonville, for Davis allegedly playing loud music from his car. Prosecutors charged Dunn with first-degree murder after his arrest.

Members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the New Jim Crow Movement and the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition attended the protest, along with other concerned members of the Jacksonville community.

“The sentiment of the people out there was, enough is enough,” said Wells Todd, an organizer with the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition and one of the protesters. “The theme was that we need to get rid of Angela Corey, stop stand-your-ground [laws] and win justice for Jordan Davis.”

Todd's quote speaks to the continued outrage by African Americans and others in Florida at state attorney Angela Corey's role in the botched prosecution of George Zimmerman and her racist prosecution of Marissa Alexander, the 33-year-old African American mother whose conviction for resisting domestic abuse was recently overturned.

Corey's office, which is prosecuting Dunn, drew criticism from the Jacksonville community when she filed a motion to limit the public and the media's access to the trial. Judge Russell Healey, who is handling the Dunn trial, agreed with Corey's stance and ordered to prevent the public from accessing evidence and case materials for 30 days. A First District Court of Appeals decision overturned Healey's decision, allowing the public and the media greater access to the trial.

At one point in the protest, local police from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office instructed protesters to leave the courthouse on orders from Judge Healey.

“A police officer gave me a court order from the judge that forced us to move from the courthouse onto the grass,” explained Todd. “If there was a large enough turnout from the community, there's no way they could control where we stood.”

The trial has drawn international attention and controversy. An English documentary crew was present outside the courthouse and interviewed protesters about the issues at play in the trial.

Although the fact that Dunn shot and killed Davis unprovoked is not in dispute, protesters still doubt that the legal system will deliver justice for Davis and other African American youth victimized by police and racist vigilantes. Most of the people at the protest were active in the Justice for Trayvon Martin movement that erupted across the country when the court failed to convict George Zimmerman last July.

“With the atmosphere the way it is, it could go either way,” said Todd. “I don't see a slam dunk. I think people saw a slam dunk with Zimmerman too. The reason I say that is because the pressure has to come from outside, and from what I see, it's not there yet. The fear that's been out there for so many years, brought on by the mass media and the politicians, has really divided the white and black communities [in Jacksonville].”

The prospects for a larger movement demanding an end to the racist killing of African American youth are not without hope, though. Todd continued, “What I thought was interesting yesterday is that the people who walked by the signs we were holding – whether they were white or black – agreed with what we were saying. People who walked by made supportive comments – white or Black. But we don't know what the courts are going to do. The courts are this racist institution that's hell-bent on oppressing and demoralizing the African American community. It's something the African American community needs to understand.”

Jury selection concluded on Feb. 5 and the trial will begin on Feb. 6. Another courthouse protest is planned for the morning of Feb. 6 to coincide with the first day of the trial.

Organizers from the SCLC, the New Jim Crow Movement and the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition plan to hold events throughout the trial to pressure the criminal injustice system into delivering a guilty verdict.

Protester holds sign outside the trial of Michael Dunn

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