Photos by Jason Ruiz 

Arlana Walton heard the George Zimmerman verdict and, like many, felt enraged; not only because of the inherent race problems she sees pervading the legal justice system, but because of the lack of knowledge about that system that is equally pervasive in minority communities.

“When I was growing up, at least my generation was graduating from high school,” Walton said, “but now, this generation within the urban community, they aren’t even graduating high school. We need to really come together as one–of course race is an issue but it’s not the overall problem–it’s about coming together and really loving each other.”

Walton’s drive to see the urban community come together led her to organize a peaceful gathering in front of the Long Beach courthouse along Ocean Blvd., a gathering which was largely organized through social media.

As the event came together and gained traction, Walton never lost focus, concentrating on educating others on the “Stand Your Ground” law–initiated in Florida in 2005–and the 14th Amendment. 

“Why do we need a law like that in 2005?” Walton points out vehemently. “Have you read these laws? There’s a lotta red tape… If you’re not educated about the laws, the government can easily walk over you,” she says. “And that’s typically minorities. I’m a first generation student, I’m the first to graduate college and typically, we become so angry about ignorance that we leave our community–but you’re supposed to come back and invest in your community.”

The event–which began today at noon–had drawn a hundred supporters by 12:30PM, ranging in race, age, class and educational background.  

While one woman quietly held a sign which read, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” another man sporting a hoodie and holding a noose provided an impassioned plea about the “modern lynchings” that the legal systems permits.

The man, who gave his name as James Chicago, passionately screamed over the crowd’s chants of “all children matter,” citing historical references to inequalities that African Americans have faced during the country’s history. Chicago bluntly stated that, to him, the demonstration was useless because it can’t overhaul centuries of racism.

“This is meaningless,” Chicago said. “This is pretty much a show. You can cry for justice all you want but the same players in place since Plessy vs. Ferguson are the same people participating in the jury pool process and they voted ‘there ain’t no way in the world you’re going to do any time in jail for killing a worthless teen’.”

The protest in front of the courthouse took place just a few hours after President Obama addressed the media with his thoughts on race relations in the country, even sharing some of his personal experiences growing up as a black man in the United States. In his surprise appearance inside the White House briefing room, the President rephrased a statement he made in the wake of Zimmerman’s arrest last year when he said Martin could’ve been his son. Today, the president went farther and stated Trayvon Martin could’ve been himself a few decades ago.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away,” President Obama said, according to an article in the New York Times. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”

For Walton, the her drive to inform the community can’t stop with today’s demonstration. She plans on organizing another gathering this upcoming Wednesday to educate those about the 2nd Amendment in hopes of tightening gun laws.

“We have to understand: this is a 400-year-story that’s been told–it’s been told over and over again. You can only oppress someone for so long before they are obligated to stand up and do something about it.”