ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Hundreds of St. Louis area residents, using Trayvon Martin's name as a civil rights rallying cry, marched in both downtown St. Louis, MO and East St. Louis, IL. They are demanding a federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department to see if Martin's civil rights were violated by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who says he was defending himself when he shot and killed 17-year old Martin.
Friends of Martin's father, Tracy Martin organized the East St. Louis protest and shared a message from him. "My faith is being tested and I will not fail this test. I stand strong for my son Trayvon and I will not rest until justice is done," read Tommie Liddell, one of Martin's childhood friends.
Another friend, Undre Howard explained he believes a civil rights violation exists, “because anytime someone could follow a child and them kill him and claim self defense of an unarmed child is just crazy to me."
Speakers also acknowledged the violence that exists within the African American community and they called on parents to prepare their children to learn to resolve conflicts peacefully.
"It's time to put down the guns in East St. Louis and all over the community and pick up books," said Lavon Singleton, an East St. Louis Planning Commission member who emceed Saturday's rally in front of the East St. Louis federal courthouse.
A similar message came from St. Louis radio personality Tony Scott speaking at the event held across the street from the U.S. Thomas Eagleton Federal Court House in downtown St. Louis. "We have to take responsibility for how we parent our children. They can't sit around watching reality TV," he said. Scott added, "We need to show them how to deal with conflict. You don't break out a gun just because you are mad at somebody over some girl or some boy. You don't do that."