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Iowa City Residents Protest Zimmerman Verdict
Updated: Monday, July 15 2013, 01:20 AM CDT
IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Dozens of people gathered on the Ped Mall in Iowa City on Sunday night to protest the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case, asking for justice for Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman's acquittal weighed heavy on the hearts and minds of those at the rally, like Shellie Smith, an African American mother with a 5-year-old son.
"When I hear it, it broke my heart, because I started thinking about my own son someday getting chased down the street by some guy who think it's okay to shoot him, and it's just said," Smith said.
Local officials at the rally said it was a reminder that progress with disproportionate minority contact by policy needs to be made.
The issue is something Johnson County and Iowa City have started to address, but with more incidents of racial profiling happening all the time, more needs to be done, said Dorothy Whiston, a member of the Coalition for Racial Justice.
"And we know that whether it's disproportionate minority contact with police among youth or marijuana arrests for adults that things are out of kilter in Johnson County," Whiston said.
The fact that Iowa City established the Ad Hoc Diversity Committee and that the committee was able to issue a report on racial inequity is a step in the right direction, Whiston said, but more needs to be done to integrate the findings of that report into police action. Most notably because people like Smith are still being profiled, she said.
"Just walking down the street with a cup of coffee, I've been stopped by the police and (they) asked me if it was alcohol. It was, like, broad daylight," Smith said. "Those things happen in Iowa City. No one's immune."
Still, Smith said coming together at the rally for Trayvon -- and for all African Americans -- gives her hope.
Sylvia Thompson, who's also a mother of two and a grandmother of 10, agreed.
"I just hope that history doesn't repeat itself, because it's been a long road, and it's still a struggle," Thompson said.
Changing attitudes starts with a grassroots effort, said County Supervisor Janelle Rettig. The people who care are already voicing their opinion, and those who care and want to make a change should nominate candidates for the up-coming Iowa City city council race who care, too, she said.