Candles for Trayvon at Vancouver church

Local congregation gathers to meditate on the death of Florida teen

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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photoPhotos by Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian Troy Haliwell, 43, left, and John Scougale, 41, both of east Vancouver, light candles in memory of Trayvon Martin during a candlelight vigil at First Congregational United Church of Christ. Haliwell said he was less concerned about the races of the two people involved in the incident than with with a law that would protect vigilante justice. Top: A bag of Skittles candy and a can of Arizona Iced Tea -- like the items Martin was carrying when he was killed -- are set next to photographs of Trayvon Martin for the vigil.
photoZACHARY KAUFMAN/The Columbian Jean Stolle of Hazel Dell lights a candle on behalf of herself and her two sons, ages 24 and 27, in memory of slain Trayvon Martin during a candlelight vigil at First Congregational United Church of Christ. Stolle, who said she purposely wore a hoodie, is worried about violence and people jumping to conclusions about others.

Vancouver resident Art Stubbs lives more than 3,000 miles away from where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in February, reportedly by a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Fla. But he said he still feels sadness and outrage about the young man’s death.

The 77-year-old retired general contractor showed his concern by lighting a candle and offering a prayer at a candlelight vigil on Good Friday at the First Congregational Church in Hazel Dell.

“This is such an absolute waste,” Stubbs said later. “There is no way to justify taking this young man’s life.”

The Rev. Brooks Berndt, pastor of the 120-year-old church on a hilltop at 1220 N.E. 68th St., organized the vigil for his predominantly white congregation and anyone from the public who wanted to attend.

The church was racially segregated until the mid-1940s.

Protests have broken out across the nation because some accounts indicate Martin might have done

nothing to provoke the shooting. It looks like a plain case of racial profiling, Berndt said.

He said he feels that racism, stereotypes and fears continue to this day in the Vancouver-Portland area.

“If it had been a black guy who shot a white kid, he would be in jail,” Stubbs said, referring to suspicions that police are not investigating aggressively.

In a bulletin announcing the vigil, Berndt quoted the Rev. Jesse Jackson as saying: “The tragic reality of the Trayvon Martin case is not unique, but universal; it was not unusual, but typical. Racial profiling is all too common in the U.S. and has led to the killing of a young man.”

Berndt said the Bethany Storro case from September 2010 illustrates that racial profiling still happens in Vancouver. Storro, lying to police and a sympathetic public, claimed that a fictitious black woman threw acid in her face.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.