It was hard to watch Monday night’s peaceful demonstration in Los Angeles against the George Zimmerman verdict turn violent in the hands of rogue protesters.
The anger is understandable. Zimmerman was let off the hook despite having killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager whose only offense seems to have been walking while black. But the violence is counterproductive.
Storming a Wal-Mart, setting fires, stomping on cars and breaking windows in South L.A. caught people’s attention, but it didn’t raise awareness for addressing the American justice system or racial inequality. What it did was create distraction and chaos.
Condemning the violence, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas reminded his district that taking a violent stance "does not advance the cause of Trayvon Martin or his memory." And Mayor Eric Garcetti reminded protesters of something I’m sure Martin’s parents would appreciate, which is that “people also deserve to be safe on the streets and in their cars.”
The tasks ahead of us -- fighting for gun reform, changing unfair laws that institutionalize racism -- require focus. Activists need to, as New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow writes, look at the many ways the whole system failed Trayvon Martin and take meaningful action so that future generations of black youths don’t have to live in fear.
Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier