Local civil and religious leaders meet to discuss racism

FRESNO, Calif.

They believe the Florida teen was targeted and killed because of his race.

A news conference was organized in light of what one pastor says is a dangerous undercurrent of racism and potential violence that has spiked since Zimmerman's not-guilty verdict last Saturday. The pastor also said he is seeing it all over social media and in Valley communities.

Saturday many Valley residents are siding with the president in calling out existing racism. They are doing so in a march smaller than most we have seen this week.

The group met at Saint Rest Baptist Church in Southwest in Fresno, and took its message of unity and peace to what many call Fresno's troubled streets.

The group of individuals walked to remember Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed last year by George Zimmerman. The former neighborhood watch captain was acquitted one week ago on Saturday.

"We may not agree with the verdict, but we agree that we are all brothers and sisters together. And what happened to a young 17-year-old young man we declare that we do not ever want happen again," said DJ Criner, Saint Rest Baptist Church Pastor.

"Even in this 'post racial' era we clearly still living in a day and age where our criminal justice system and society in general has two separate tracks based on the color of our skin," said Andy Levine from Faith in Community.

In New York City Trayvon Martin's Mother, Sybrina Fulton, walked with thousands of people. She was side by side with music mega stars Beyonce and Jay Z.

Most people in the rallies want to see Zimmerman brought up on civil rights violation charges. They also want to see self-defense laws redefined.

"Our struggle is not over in Florida and our struggle is not over in Fresno," said Oliver Baines a Fresno City Councilman.

Baines weighed in on racism in the Valley, citing his district in Southwest Fresno as underserved by the city because of its racial makeup.

"So for this conversation go farther than being simply people being angry with one another. We're going to have to be able to look one another in the eye, form relationships, to get to know each other well enough to talk about the hard things," said Natalie Chamberlain Pastor with the Disciples of Christ.

As for the Zimmerman case, his attorney said Saturday connecting racial inequality to the trial and verdict just creates more division and less conversation.

The justice department still has an open civil rights investigation into Trayvon Martin's death.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.