This much is clear: Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, on the rainy evening of February 26, 2012.
Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American teenager. Zimmerman, 28 years old, is a man of multi-ethnic heritage who was patrolling his gated community in Florida.
Martin had been walking back from a 7-Eleven where he had bought a bag of Skittles and an iced tea and was unarmed when he was shot by Zimmerman’s semi-automatic. He can be heard begging for his life on the police dispatch recording of the incident.
Martin’s only crime was, as Zimmerman described to police dispatch, “This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something.” Martin was wearing a hoodie at the time of his death, with the hood pulled up to keep out the rain.
Zimmerman’s trial began on June 10, 2013, in Sanford, Florida. He had requested a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, but in March 2013, his defense elected to bypass the hearing so that his case would be tried before a jury.
On Saturday, July 13, 2013, the jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and of manslaughter. The six women in the jury delivered their verdict after more than sixteen hours of deliberations.
“Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder,” said Syreeta McFadden, in reaction to the verdict.
Trayvon Martin was an honour student with a 3.7 GPA average and a steadfast volunteer. At 17, his life was just beginning. But to Zimmerman, he looked like a black boy out of place in a gated Florida community. Martin was, in Zimmerman’s words to the 911 dispatcher, a “suspicious person.”
In audio from that call to police, at the 1:40 mark, you can hear Zimmermann say, “Fucking —- !” Many assert that what Zimmerman is saying is in fact “Fucking Coons!” Again, you can access the audio by clicking on the link and hear it for yourself. After the recording was released, the Sanford Police Department admitted that they might have missed the potential racial slur on the call.
Some residents of his gated community declared that Zimmerman was known for being strict and that he went door to door asking them to be on the lookout for “young black men who appear to be outsiders,” while others regarded him as “normal,” “helpful” and “passionate about neighbourhood security,” having supposedly thwarted a previous burglary attempt.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Sunday July 14, 2013 it would review the Trayvon Martin case to determine if it should consider prosecuting Zimmerman.
In the aftermath of Martin’s death, even President Obama weighed in. Commenting weeks after the shooting on the concern of African American parents, Barak Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.”
Wearing a hoodie with the hood up has become a symbolic marker of solidarity for Martin and his supporters.
There were HoodieUp rallies across North America when Zimmerman’s fate was announced. There were vigils for Martin in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.
In the States, there were demonstrations in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Oakland and Philadelphia following the verdict late Saturday night. Tim Pool reported there were arrests at the New York vigil which counted more than a thousand people.
Harsha Walia, head of No One Is Illegal in Vancouver said, “hoodieup is a powerful symbol in solidarity with Trayvon martin, but let’s be clear that the hoodie did not kill Trayvon, nor sadly, was his murder or the verdict exceptional — they are part of a long and disgusting legacy of white supremacy, and more specifically anti-black racism.”
Regarding Florida’s Stand Your Ground legislation –- a provision that allows individuals to use lethal force to defend themselves from a perceived threat – it does not apply equally to all citizens of Florida and is anything but colour blind.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and mentality have been in the spotlight before.
Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Florida, attempted to use the same defence in her trail after she fired warning shots into a wall to stop her abusive husband from attacking her back in August 2010. The court found that the Stand Your Ground law did not apply in this case, even though Alexander had an active restraining order against her husband which should have established the intensity and dynamic of the threat against her. Marissa Alexander received twenty years in prison for her crime.
George Zimmerman, who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, was acquitted of his crime.
Thus is justice in America.