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Waukegan rally participants seek change

JasmGreen 23 Ziholds sign outside Lake County Courthouse Waukegan Saturday as part Justice for TrayvNational Day ActiVigil\Phoby David Pollard

Jasmin Green, 23, of Zion holds a sign outside Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan Saturday as part of Justice for Trayvon National Day of Action Vigil\Photo by David Pollard

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Updated: September 23, 2013 6:14PM

WAUKEGAN — This was Robert Stewart’s first time ever organizing an event like this, but when he heard the news he knew had to do something.

After a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense in the controversial shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, he decided to take action, but wasn’t sure in what way. When Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights leader and president of National Action Network (NAN), made the rallying cry for 100 cities to have a Justice for Trayvon National Day of Action Vigil on Saturday, he knew he wanted to be a part of it.

Stewart’s vigil took place outside the Lake County Courthouse, 18 N. County St. in Waukegan. About 25 people made up of friends, family, supporters and those that found out about the Waukegan vigil location on NAN website showed up to participate.

Holding signs and chanting or holding signs with slogans on them like: Honk for Justice, Justice for Trayvon and Your Son, My Son.

Stewart’s mother, Glory Barnes, 56, was a bit nervous, when her son told her what he wanted to do, but after praying on it, she changed her mind and attended the vigil and helped him get the word out about it by handing out fliers prior to the event. Stewart, 24, heads the Agg’in Tribe, a non-profit humanitarian organization.

“At first I was concerned, but Robert was on a mission,” she said. “Robert wants peace for everybody.”

Although another vigil was taking place the same day in Chicago, Stewart believed having one in Waukegan was just as appropriate.

“I wanted to do it here,” he said. “There’s not much activism in Lake County.”

“We don’t live in Cook County,” he said. “We have Lake County issues.”

Eric Hansknecht, 57, and his wife Brenda, 53, showed up to express their displeasure with the verdict. “It’s just not fair,” Eric said.

“I have three teenage sons and my heart bleeds for these young (African-American) boys,” Brenda said. “They’ve already been tainted with failure.”

She believes her sons could experience a similar fate like Trayvon Martin. While expressing her concern she begins to cry when she sees her 21-year-old son, Christopher, approach to participate in the vigil after getting off work.

“There was no reason for Trayvon to lose his life,” she said.

Sharon Sanders-Funnye, 53 of Buffalo Grove and her 16-year-old son, Justin, came to participate as well. Justin Funnye, 16, wore a hooded sweatshirt representing the one Martin was wearing prior to being killed by Zimmerman.

He said just because you wear a hooded sweatshirt doesn’t mean you are up to something illegal, but understands stereotypes for some are often hard to let go of. “I could have easily been in that position,” he said.

Jacques Ngoie, 37, of Wauconda, came to participate in the vigil and brought his 8-year-old son, Jovic, with him. He believes Stand Your Ground laws have to change.

“Zimmerman was not on trial, Trayvon Martin was,” he said.

Originally from Democratic Republic of Congo, he said his parents, who still live there, now call him often to see about his safety in the United States after they heard about the Trayvon Martin incident, where in the past he used to call to check on their safety due to political unrest in the country.

He came out to the vigil to express his concern about the verdict, a luxury he would not have had where he was born. “Dictators don’t care if you have a petition and our voices would have had no meaning,” he said.

He knows using your voice change can happen in United States. “I’m hopeful that there will be change, but people will have to speak up,” he said.

The vigil went from noon to 2 p.m. and Stewart said he felt good about the turnout and hopes it has had a positive effect on the community. He hopes to make his organization a more positive presence in the community.

“This is something I want to expand and make it grow,” he said.

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