(WASHINGTON) — A large group of Capitol Hill staffers gathered Friday on the U.S. Capitol steps to rally in support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed boy gunned down in Sanford, Fla. last month.
About 250-300 aides rallied Friday afternoon in support of “Hoodies on the Hill.” Participants were encouraged to wear hooded sweatshirts and to bring Skittles candy and iced tea, the two items Martin was carrying when he was killed by a 28-year-old man as he walked back to his father’s girlfriend’s House.
“We have a mandate to ensure that young boys like Trayvon live their lives and that they’re successful and that they have the opportunity we have today,” said Brandon Andrews, a congressional staffer who said he was representing African American men on the Hill.
Senate Chaplain Barry Black, a black retired commander in the Navy, led the group in prayer, invoking Martin Luther King, Jr. and telling the crowd of his own experiences with racial stereotyping.
The organizer of the rally, Ify Ike, said she posted ‘Hoodies on the Hill’ as her Gchat status Thursday and had encouragement from a friend to make her vision happen.
“Basically we just worked together to get other groups to galvanize and to stand for life,” Ike, who works as a fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, said. “Regardless of what side of the aisle we stand on, we all are here today to say that we do respect life. Trayvon did matter. Trayvon was a good kid. Trayvon’s hoodie was not what made him suspicious. Trayvon’s skin should not have made him suspicious.”
One man sang Sam Cooke’s 1964 civil rights song A Change is Gonna Come before the crowd then joined together and sang We Shall Overcome.
Earlier Friday, President Obama made his first public comments on the shooting, calling for “some soul searching” and suggesting that if he had a son, “he’d look like Trayvon.”
“It took some courage for the president to talk on the issue, shows the national significance of it,” Jerron Smith, a congressional aide from Cleveland, Ohio, said at the rally. “It was just important that he made comments supporting the family and I think everybody should ask for justice and peace in this situation.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Billy Hallowell, Deseret News
Christopher Dawson, CNN
Matt Egan, CNN