Today the verdict for the Martin Lee Anderson trial will be announced.
If a verdict of not guilty is returned, members of Florida A&M University’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are prepared to take action.
Students of the NAACP held a heated emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss mobilizing FAMU in a march for justice.
Some 23 students gathered in a B.L. Perry building classroom Wednesday evening to form FAMU’s Martin Lee Anderson Justice Committee.
The committee was designed to try to ensure that eight of the former Bay County Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Boot Camp employees, on trial for alleged aggravated manslaughter of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, are given a guilty verdict.
Andrew Collins, the NAACP president, described the importance of a potential march to committee members.
“As soon as we get word of a not guilty verdict, it will be up to us to mobilize the rest of this campus,” said Collins, 21, a fourth-year business administration student from Atlanta. “The purpose of the march is to take the trial from the Bay County courts to a federal level.”
The meeting became heated when Brison Blackwell, 19, a criminal justice student from Chicago disagreed with the committee’s choice of action.
“Why after over 60 years do black folks still want to march when we’ve seen that it really doesn’t do anything?” Blackwell said. “There will still be an injustice whether people march or not. Marching is not going to cut it.”
Gregory Woodall, the NAACP political action chair, disagreed with Blackwell.
“As African-Americans we need to understand the power that we possess. We have the fifth largest economy in the world,” said Woodall, 21, a senior physics student from Atlanta. “First we need to bring out the issue of the case, and then after our initial national protest an economic protest will take place.”
Alysia Sturges, the NAACP community service co-chair, also pointed out the benefits of marching in protest.
“The Jena six boys were brought home as a result of the Jena six march, and it brought on national attention from people like Oprah and Dr. Phil,” said Sturges, 20, a senior economics student from Detroit. “If we support our own people we let political figures know that one voice will be the change of a nation.”
Students welcomed her statement with a round of applause.
While Blackwell agreed with Sturges , he noted that some black leaders in the past who tried to take a stand in their communities were marginalized by the larger society.
“Look at what (people) did to leaders like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Huey Newton, they tried to slander their names,” Blackwell said. “There should be another way other than marching.”
The group’s discussion digressed to another issue. Various group members then spoke about members of the black community not supporting each other. Some people pointed out that students needed to support their local black-owned businesses, while others wanted black people to stop blaming others for their problems.
Collins brought the focus back to the mission of the committee by confirming that they would go forward with the original intent to march, upon learning news of an unjust verdict.
“We have to start somewhere to get results, and history has shown us that we have to start by getting national attention,” Collins said. “We will start with marches and economic sanctions.”
As political action chair, Woodall prepared his peers for the possible outcome of today’s verdict.
“We have to be ready at a moment’s notice to take action,” Woodall said. “If the jury verdict is not guilty at 12 a.m., we should be ready to go at 12:15 a.m.”