REPORTING FROM EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS — It was an event with ovations so thunderous and repeated that it seemed, at times, that the walls of the church would give way. Tracy Martin, the father of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, returned to his hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois. And the city turned out in force at the North End Baptist Church.
Trayvon’s parents and their lawyer traveled to this small town, on the banks of the Mississippi River and across from St. Louis, for an emotional Stop the Violence event at the church Friday. The city’s treasurer, clergy and a large number of Trayvon’s family attended the event, which was part rally and part worship service.
“It feels good to be home,” Martin said, to roaring applause. “I’m proud to be a product of East St. Louis. I’m happy to see so many family members out there. I love you all.”
Martin, who typically limits his remarks to a few minutes, spoke a great length, largely on the newly created Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation. He said the foundation was designed to undertake advocacy and support for families who have had to deal with “senseless violence” and the need for communities to work together to prevent violence.
The family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said that another goal of the foundation was to teach conflict resolution techniques to young people. A third goal was to increase awareness “against all kinds of profiling.” The foundation would work toward reversing laws such as Florida’s controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which many have criticized as license for vigilante activity.
“We have to learn to embrace each other,” Martin said. “If we could just take the guns away from people, we would have a better society. But you would have to replace them with something. The first thing is to replace them with God. The second thing is love. And third is education.”
A large swath of Martin’s hometown came out to see Martin and Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, including the city’s mayor, Alvin Parks.
“They are people who are parents who have been through a lot and who deserve to be recognized and sympathized with,” Parks said. “I believe they got some of that here on East St. Louis.”
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(Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)