March 24, 2012

Justice for Trayvon Martin

We were asked to come wearing a hoodie. We were looking for justice for Trayvon Martin. Occupy Sarasota had called for a march through downtown, to let residents have an opportunity to come together and vent about the injustices of this case. In Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman, had taken it upon himself to determine that Trayvon Martin, a young African American, was "suspicious." He then disregarded the instructions of a 911 dispatcher and shot Trayvon Martin in the chest. Shockingly, despite his own problematic past and witness accounts that dispute his version of events, Zimmerman has yet to be arrested or charged because he claimed that he shot this unarmed young man in self-defense.

We all bring our past experiences, our current level of knowledge, and our reasoning abilities to bear, when making judgements. I came to this march, because I thought it was a travesty that Zimmerman, who admitted to the shooting, had not been arrested. But others had a more personal response. Some were filled with outrage that ANY young black man in a hoodie could be the victim of such a killing. It could have been their son or their nephew. Evidence suggests a major reason Zimmerman thought he needed to use deadly force against the unarmed Martin is because the teen was black. And, regardless of race, most parents hold protective instincts toward their children and they can identify with the pain and suffering felt by Trayvon's parents. Others were incensed that the police chief put himself on temporary leave rather than being fired. Listen to Sarasota citizens as they speak up on these issues.

As the small group marched through crowded downtown Sarasota, they were treated to thumbs up, smiles, and even applause. The sea of white faces streaming out of the Farmers Market and attending the crafts fair were visibly appreciative of these marchers. The group grew, as onlookers were moved to join in the march. Upon returning to Five Points Park, the group had swelled in size by perhaps 50%. This was so very refreshing!

Some folks were incensed about Florida's stand-your-ground law, which they prefer to call Florida's shoot-first law. This law gives legal protection to anyone, anywhere, to use deadly force when one is attacked and fears for their life. Some feel that the law goes beyond self defense and encourages vigilante justice - the exact type of justice meted out by George Zimmerman. Florida was the first state to pass such a law in 2005, but now somewhere in the range of 16 to 23 states have passed similar laws (sources differ on the exact number). This smacks of legislation authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch,

Florida Senator Durell Peadon, an ALEC member, introduced the law in his state and it passed in early 2005; the NRA was behind the bill and its lobbyist Marion Hammer reportedly "stared down legislators as they voted." After Governor Jeb Bush signed it into law, Hammer presented the bill to ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force (now known as the Public Safety and Elections Task Force) months later.
SourceWatch has a good description of the relationship between ALEC and the National Rifle Association (NRA). For example, an NRA representative was the co-chair of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force for a number of years.

Thousands of people attended a rally in Sanford, Florida last Thursday. Brando from Occupy Sarasota was able to attend and provided this report. Although George Zimmerman has yet to be arrested, there is some movement on the case. The Sanford, Florida police chief has temporarily stepped aside. Governor Rick Scott is convening a task force to study the matter. And, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the case.

1 comment:

  1. While the turnout was modest at best, it was still well-supported by the crowd that was there and that was inspiring. Sarasota has a racist undertone that rears its ugly head from time to time. All we can do is continue to be who we are and move forward secure in knowing that there's more people seeking peace than division. I still pray that George Zimmerman is captured safely so that justice may me upheld.