Seventeen year old high school student, Trayvon Martin, was recently shot and killed by a white neighborhood watch vigilante in Sanford, Florida.
JUSTICE DEMANDED IN THE DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN by Marc H. Morial
“Everybody is outraged. There is no justice in this.” —Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin
Being a young black man has been called the hardest job in America. Young black men are much more likely than white men to be jobless, in jail and labeled “suspicious,” sometimes with deadly consequences. Such was the case on February 26th, when 17-year-old high school student, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a white neighborhood-watch vigilante in Sanford, Florida. The shooter, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white Hispanic, noticed Trayvon walking through his gated community and called 911 to report a suspicious person. Instead of following the dispatcher’s instructions and ending his involvement there, Zimmerman continued following Trayvon. An altercation ensued and Trayvon was shot. Zimmerman claimed self defense and has not been charged with a crime. Trayvon’s parents are both heartbroken and outraged. As Benjamin Crump, the family’s lawyer put it, “If Trayvon would have been the triggerman, it’s nothing Trayvon Martin could have said to keep police from arresting him Day 1, Hour 1.”
Of the many unanswered questions in this case, two stand out. First, Trayvon Martin, who had just stopped off at a convenience store, was armed only with a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea. George Zimmerman, who weighed over 100 pounds more than the victim, was armed with a 9 millimeter handgun. Even if there was a physical altercation between the two, why was such deadly force necessary?
Second, one of the reasons the police gave for not immediately arresting Zimmerman was that he had a “squeaky clean” record. A few days later it was discovered that Zimmerman had been arrested in 2005 for resisting arrest with battery on a police officer. Trayvon Martin, on the other hand, had no criminal record.
These and other troubling facts have led the Central Florida Urban League and others, to call on the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation. Central Florida Urban League president and CEO, Allie Braswell said, “A private citizen taking law enforcement into his own hands cannot be condoned. If it is found that a crime has been committed, the shooter must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” This case is now generating national attention and we will be following it closely.
We do not know for sure why George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. But we do know, according to a 2011 College Board report, that 45 percent of African American high school graduates between the ages of 15 and 24 will end up “unemployed, incarcerated or dead.” We also know that the murder of innocent black men in the American South is nothing new. Fifty-seven years ago, the white murderers of 14-year old Emmitt Till in the Mississippi Delta were acquitted of the crime in a clear case of racial injustice.
As the father of a 10-year old African American son, I join all African American parents and Americans of conscience everywhere in calling for an end to the war against young black men and a thorough investigation of the death of Trayvon Martin.
Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
TRAYVON MARTIN'S DEATH TAKES TOLL ON FAMILY by George E. Curry
Sybrina Fulton knows what she will be doing tomorrow. It is the same thing she did yesterday. And the same thing she will do today.
“I cry every day,” she said Sunday on TV One’s Washington Watch with Roland Martin. “I just don’t understand. My son’s gone and this guy has never been arrested.”
Her son, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year old high school junior with no record of trouble, was killed in Sanford, Fla. on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman was questioned by police and released after authorities took his word that he was acting in self-defense, a version of events contradicted by witnesses and calls to 911.
Martin, an honor student who lived in Miami with his parents, was visiting in the gated community of Twin Lakes in Sanford, 20 miles northeast of Orlando, with his father when the incident took place. He had gone to a nearby 7-Eleven store to pick up a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea during halftime of a televised NBA game.
Walking back, he was spotted by Zimmerman, who was driving a SUV. Zimmerman, a wannabe cop, dialed 911 to report seeing a “very suspicious” Black male in the neighborhood.
Under pressure, Sanford police released 911 tapes that clearly show that Zimmerman disobeyed police instructions that he avoid making contact with Martin.
Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher, “This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something.” He also claimed Martin had his hand in his waistband and was looking at homes as he walked.
“These —holes. They always get away,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher. When the 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he were following Martin, he replied yes.
“OK, we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher told Zimmerman. Not only did he disobey, Zimmerman got out of this SUV, confronted Martin, and fired the deadly bullet into his chest.
Benjamin Crump, the family’s lawyer, also appeared on Roland Martin’s show with the parents.
“He [Zimmerman] gets out of that car with a 9 millimeter gun, weighing 200 pounds and confronts this kid, weighing soaking wet 140-150 pounds, who has only a bag of Skittles. George Zimmerman has a red sweat shirt and jeans on. We believe Trayvon Martin went to his grave not knowing who was this strange White man confronting him.”
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee has defended his department’s decision not to charge Zimmerman.
“We are taking a beating over this,” he said. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”
Several witnesses have disputed the idea that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.
“I heard someone crying – not boo-hoo crying, but scared or terrified or hurt maybe,” Mary Cutcher told the Miami Herald. “To me, it was a child.” She explained, “This was not self-defense. We heard no fighting, no wrestling, no punching. We heard a boy crying. As soon as the shot went off, it stopped, which tells me it was the child crying. If it had been Zimmerman crying, it wouldn’t have stopped. If you’re hurting, you’re hurting.”
Sanford, Fla. has a checkered race relations record.
In 2005, two parking lot security guards, one the son of a Sanford police officer, fatally shot a Black teenager, Travares McGill, in the back. They, too, claimed self-defense and had their case dismissed in court.
Last year, Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced from office after the son of a lieutenant was caught on camera beating a defenseless homeless Black man. The department refused to prosecute the officer, Justin Collison, until after the footage was posted on YouTube.
Tracy Martin told Roland Martin that his son saved his life in 2004.
“At the time, he was 9 years old,” the father recounted. “We had just came from the Little League football park. We fell asleep while the stove was on. A grease fire started. I went into the kitchen to try to put the grease fire out. The grease splattered all over my leg. My body went into shock and by me and him being in the house, I started calling out his name.
“He finally woke up and, at 9 years old, he pulled me from out of the kitchen, where the kitchen cabinets were on fire. He pulled me out of the kitchen onto the balcony. He actually went back into the house and got the cell phone and called 911.”
An emotional Tracy Martin said, “He was my hero – he was actually my best friend. He saved my life. And for me not to be there to be able to save his life is very upsetting.”
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.