ARLINGTON — "Justice for Trayvon! Justice for Trayvon!" shouted students at the University of Texas at Arlington during a march Monday for slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
The 17-year-old was shot and killed more than a month ago after walking to a corner store in an affluent neighborhood while visiting friends.
Students came out 300 strong to send a powerful message as they signed petitions to demand the arrest of the shooting suspect who was heard on a 911 tape saying the unarmed black teen looked "suspicious."
"One thing that outrages us is clothing is getting so much power. So now, it's kind of like your clothing can mean that you're asking for death," said Dontae Robison, president of the university's student NAACP chapter.
The campus organization sponsored Monday's rally, and many students from different backgrounds deliberately wore hoodies in a show of solidarity with Trayvon, who was dressed that way when he was killed holding a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.
"Are you going to kill us, too?" was the question on one sign which had candy taped to it.
Carolyn Saddler, a parent at the rally, left her job at Lockheed Martin to support the students after seeing the invitation on Facebook. She donned a black hoodie and zipped it up.
"A hoodie does not make you a criminal," the 55-year-old said.
Saddler has a 17-year-old herself, and says she will not tell her children to stop wearing hoodies out of fear that a non-black person will think they are up to no good.
"It's not right. 'Don't wear this.... don't wear that.' We gave up all our colors, and I do tell my kids to not wear blue and red [which are the gang colors of the Bloods and the Crips], but now you are asking that we give up hoodies? We have to take a stand somewhere," Saddler said.
A group of students signed a hand-made card that will be sent to Trayvon Martin's family. "I don't see a threat; I see a child of God," it read.
Carter Bedford, another black parent at the rally with a young son, said the stereotypes must stop. "You know I look at the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. He always wears a hoodie, but no one ever called him a 'questionable looking male' or 'suspicious looking male.' We have to move past that and look at individuals themselves," Bedford said.
Students signed a petition to send to Florida along with the other hundreds of names around the country asking for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch patrolman in the affluent neighborhood who said he shot Trayvon in self-defense.
Other college campuses around the country staged silent hoodie marches as well, like one late in the evening at Southern Methodist University. They marched from the campus through Highland Park with their hoodies on, and had on buttons that said, "Ask me about my hoodie."
Clearly students are sending the message that they want to be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.
"I think Martin Luther King would be proud of us today." said Dontae Robison, one of the students who believe that Trayvon Martin was gunned down as a result of a senseless stereotype.