Are Peaceful Trayvon Martin Marches Being Disrupted by Violence From Outside?

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Protestors in Atlanta, Georgia, outraged by the not-guilty verdict handed down in the George Zimmerman case, came together on Sunday night to voice their concerns.

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By all accounts, the demonstration in Atlanta – which started and ended in the city’s predominantly Black West End neighborhood and counted as many as 1,500 mostly Black participants – was peaceful, with organizers aiming to keep the message in focus and not have their goal of demanding justice for Trayvon Martin and his family mired by any negativity. And that seems to have been the message delivered by protest organizers across the country. But somehow, the negativity still got through.

There were a couple of extreme and well-documented violent incidents, as in San Francisco, where the media reports acts of vandalism left more than $50,000 worth of property damage to area businesses; and in Oakland, where protestors took to the streets near Oakland City Hall, blocking traffic, setting fire to an American flag in the middle of the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway and surrounding frightened drivers who attempted to drive through the intersection.

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In other communities, like Los Angeles, the violence was a little more subdued: the LAPD attributed the protest-related arrests on Sunday to individuals who threw rocks, D-batteries and pieces of concrete at peace officers.

A similar incident was documented in Atlanta’s West End by journalist and author Maurice Garland, raising a question as to who exactly was behind these disturbances. Garland reports seeing a group of young white men at the march wearing gloves, long-sleeved shirts and t-shirts tied over their faces. “I thought it was just for show at first,” Garland shared via Instagram after the event, “but on the second half of the march, they deviated from peaceful ‘Trayvon’ chants to ‘F**k the police.’ A couple of others joined in, while some started shouting more peaceful things louder.

“Towards the tail of the march, when we got back into the West End, those same dudes started banging on street signs, throwing rocks at poles, making noise,” Garland continued. “When I saw one of them bang on [a] Rent-a-Center van and throw a sign/pole in the street, I picked it up, put it back and I ran up on him.”

Upon returning to the residential portion of the West End, Garland says two of the same men he had been keeping an eye on threw a hammer through the windshield of a police car, while the driving office was inside the vehicle. Though he was unharmed, the officer was understandably upset and immediately got out of the car, at which point the alleged perpetrators ran off.

“That cop could’ve just started busting on US,” Garland writes. “The people who live there and are of the community. This rally was for Trayvon Martin, not anybody’s personal agenda. These dudes really tried to start a riot in OUR hood. And WE would have been the ones dealing with beefed up police presence, harassment, and negative media.”

The incident has gone undocumented by the media in Atlanta, which is fine by Garland and other participants in the march who insist that the focus remain on peace and justice for Trayvon. But it does make you wonder how many more disruptions were really caused by people who were motivated by ulterior motives.

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