Hundreds march in downtown Baltimore to protest Trayvon Martin killing

Near City Hall, 5-year-old Shalyn Lloyd stood wearing a green hoodie and carrying a sign that read: "Are we next?"

His sign expressed the outrage felt by hundreds who marched in downtown Baltimore on Monday night — and thousands more who have rallied in cities around the nation in recent days — to protest the failure of Florida authorities to arrest George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who killed teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

The Baltimore crowd, estimated by Baltimore police at 1,200 people, chanted "Justice now" as they marched from McKeldin Square to City Hall, some riding bikes, others pushing strollers and others carrying signs that denounced what they viewed as unfairness and racism.

Many were wearing hoodies, a gesture that has become a protest in and of itself. Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed African-American in a hoodie, was shot by Zimmerman as he walked through a gated community.

A month later, Zimmerman has not been charged, and indignation has escalated. In Annapolis, legislators donned hoodies and called for the Department of Justice to investigate Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, a measure that allows a shooter to use deadly force if he or she feels threatened. In Sanford, Fla., where the killing happened, another rally took place Monday that included Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she was "hugely impressed" by the size of the downtown protest. "We got beyond our expectations," she said, calling it the "best rally and largest turnout in 20 years."

The case has moved many people who have rallied this week after widespread media attention. A national debate on social media and other venues has ignited calls for Zimmerman to be brought to justice and for a renewal of the civil rights movement.

During the march in Baltimore, which prompted police to shut down Pratt Street to accommodate the crowd, cars and trucks honked approval and drivers raised their fists out of windows in a show of unity.

At the head of the march, two musicians played a tuba and trumpet, and some danced to the music. Others were carrying bags of Skittles and Arizona iced tea, the two items Trayvon had gone to the store to buy when he was killed.

Some people carried signs that read: "We are all Trayvon Martin," and several said they believed that Trayvon could have been any race. Others carried signs with Emmet Till's picture next to Trayvon's. Till was a 14-year-old African American boy brutally killed in Mississippi in 1955, whose death helped spark the civil rights movement.

"It is time for change. This is bigger than Trayvon Martin," said Stephanie Street of Baltimore. "It is unfortunate this young man gave his life, but it is time for all this corruption to stop." She recounted a story told by her grandson, who said he was in a car with tinted windows in Woodlawn when the police pulled the car over and handcuffed him. She believes it was racial profiling. Police never charged him, she said.

"I was really upset," she said, adding that people need to rise up to force change.

"I am here to support Trayvon Martin's family," said Ricky Little, a Baltimore resident who flew back from Florida, where he was playing in a band, to attend the march and rally. "He has been dead for a month and [Zimmerman] has not been served."

Little cited media reports that Trayvon was a good student and planned to go to college. "We are all Trayvon," Little said, repeating a message chanted by the crowd.

"I don't think anyone should have to go through this, black, white Puerto Rican, Asian," Little said. "This is more than just about race. This is global. People are just opening their eyes."

Derrick Lloyd of Baltimore, whose 5-year-old son, Shalyn, carried the sign, said he worries about what will happen when Shalyn grows up. "Justice is supposed to be provided for all citizens," he said.

"It is such a beautiful thing that everyone is coming" to the rally, Derrick Lloyd added.

Wearing hoodies, members of Maryland Legislative Black Caucus called upon the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the controversial Florida law.

"We believe justice has not been served," said Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat who leads the black caucus. "We want people in the city, state and country to realize we have to be more culturally sensitive."

"You should not make assumptions because of what someone is wearing ... or the color of their skin," Pugh said.

"We are saying 'Lets not prejudge,'" Pugh said.

Pugh also said she believes Maryland "is on the right track" in terms of addressing racial profiling. She said when neighborhood watch teams are organized in Baltimore, none of the volunteers are armed.

After a news conference, several lawmakers shared the warnings they give their own children. Baltimore Del. Shawn Tarrant, father to a 15-year-old, tells his son that there will be police officers who "are looking for you to do something wrong."

"I tell my kids that life is not fair, there are people who don't value their lives. They have to value their own lives," Tarrant said.

Sun reporter Annie Linskey contributed to this report.