Wearing green hoodies that said "Community Pride" on the front and "Holyoke Community College" on the back, more than two dozen HCC students participated in Saturday's walk in downtown Springfield to support justice for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
Called "1,000 Hoodies: A Walk for Trayvon Martin," the march through the streets of downtown Springfield and rally on the steps of City Hall reportedly attracted at least 1,200 people. The event was sponsored by the Alliance of Black Professionals. HCC's contingent was organized by the Black Student Alliance, Occupy HCC and Students Activities, which brought a supply of green HCC hoodies for participants.
"I think it was good a lot of people showed up," said HCC student Felicia Morales. "I wasn't expecting that many. It was a good turnout."
Morales said she doesn't often participate in these kind of community events, but she thought this one was too important. And she wanted her 8-month-old daughter to be part of it too.
"I think it was a good experience for me," said Morales, from Holyoke. She pushed her daughter in a stroller during the walk, using a cover to protect her from the cool, wet weather. "I think what happened to Trayvon was terrible. He wasn't armed or anything. It was unfair."
Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, was wearing a hoodie when he was spotted by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman called police, who advised him to stay in his car. Instead, Zimmerman pursued Martin on foot and ultimately shot and killed the unarmed teen. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense. Martin was carrying only a cell phone and a package of Skittles on his way home from a neighborhood store. Zimmerman has not been arrested.
The event has sparked international outrage about the issue of racial profiling and calls for the prosecution of Zimmerman.
The HCC group carried an HCC banner on the walk, which started at City Hall and moved through the sidewalks and streets of Springfield before returning to City Hall for speeches from Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, D-Springfield, Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield and State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre.
"We really stood out as a large group because we all had green hoodies," said Pedro Rodriguez, advisor to the HCC Black Student Alliance.
Rodriguez said the event far surpassed his expectations. He said the march stopped traffic in many places. Cars honked in support. People joined the march along the way and onlookers were very supportive.
"It was beautiful. A good experience. It was very peaceful," he said.
Rodriguez said he was particularly affected by the sentiments on the signs marchers carried: "We Are All Trayvon," "Save Our Sons, Save Our Sisters, Save Our Souls," "Skirts Don't Justify Rape. Hoodies Don't Justify Murder."
Photos: (Left) Wearing green HCC hoodies, students carry the college banner through the streets of Springfield. (Right) HCC student Felicia Morales and her daughter, both wearing hoodies, take part in the 1,000 Hoodies walk Saturday, March 31.