March 22, 2012
By now everyone is familiar with the story of Trayvon. But for those who have been off the planet for a month or more, the facts as far as we can discern are as follows:
Trayvon Martin was an African American seventeen year old boy. He was walking back home from a convenience store in a middle class gated community in Sanford, Florida; he had bought a package of candy and an iced tea. He was stalked and pursued by George Zimmerman, a white male with a history of domestic violence who claims to have been operating as a neighbourhood watch captain, although at this writing there is no evidence of that. Trayvon told his girlfriend via cell phone that he was afraid of the unidentified large male who was following him for no apparent reason. George Zimmerman approached and then shot and killed the boy. That much is known as fact.
The police of Sanford arrived, took in the situation, released Zimmerman with his still loaded weapon and took the corpse to the county morgue where it was stored unidentified for several days, despite having a cell phone with his family’s and girlfriend’s numbers stored. Zimmerman claimed he had acted in self-defence and the police claimed that therefore their hands were tied, in that they had no probable cause to arrest him.
Those are the bare bones; there is a lot more to it and more detail is being released every day as a groundswell movement demanding justice for Trayvon develops. But interestingly, every time a new tidbit of information is released or uncovered, the incident becomes more starkly a simple case of a racist hunting down and murdering an innocent child for what is being described as the crime of WWB (Walking While Black). Moreover, the case becomes even more clearly an example of southern US police complicity in murder. No fact, no witness testimony, no 911 recording, no evidence of any sort has had any mitigating effect on the killer’s actions; the more the truth comes to light, the more the facts reinforce the egregiousness of the crime against Trayvon. Nothing whatsoever exculpatory for Zimmerman has been uncovered.
Nevertheless, as this is written, a month after the murder, days after the police chief who took personal responsibility for the case resigned – temporarily, after a grand jury and the FBI both launched investigations into the mishandling of the case, the acknowledged shooter remains free and walking around the streets of Sanford, presumably with his loaded gun. Zimmerman hasn’t even been arrested.
No one is convicting anyone at this point, but surely the fact that there is a dead unarmed boy and a man who admits to having shot him after having admitted he was following him and was told not to by police, is sufficient “probable cause” for an arrest. And an arrest is necessary, if for no other reason, so that there can be a thorough investigation of the shooting itself and not just one of the inept (or corrupt) police work. Trayvon – any human being – deserves that much.
Supporting the homicidal bigotry and the fundamental racism that seems to be at the core of this case, there is at issue a Florida law; a law referred to as “Stand Your Ground” that has parallel legislation in 21 other states.
“Stand Your Ground” is a quintessentially American bit of legislation; the basic principal is that if a citizen feels threatened, he shouldn’t take the responsible course of action and run for safety; it recommends that he kill the person by whom he feels threatened. It encourages the idea that every citizen ought to carry a loaded firearm at all times, in case ground needs to be stood upon. Concerned? Shoot him dead. The best part of this kind of legislation is that when the dust settles, there is usually only one version of the events: that provided by the winner of the gunfight. All he has to say is, “self-defence”, and the police will say, “Off you go then, and don’t forget your gun!” Even if there is a dead, unarmed, innocent child lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk while the killer’s gun is still smoking.
And that’s what happened to George Zimmerman who is on record as having followed against police requests an unarmed child and shot him to death. Self defence. Stood his ground.
Bullshit. He hunted him down and shot him for sport.
Trayvon may well become the touchstone for the next level of the civil rights war that still rages in the US. The injustice of which the death of Trayvon is an example will reignite the battle for equality among people in the United States; those of us, particularly those of us who are white, who have fought for civil rights, have become complacent; we have for too long assumed that the battle was over; the good guys won. We were wrong. Here in Canada, it’s one thing, we’re not bad. We’re not perfect, but we try. Apparently the United States hasn’t yet got the memo. The Deep South is still Jim Crow country. It’s time to wind it up again. Because the truth is that the country still can’t accept that people of colour are as deserving of the right to life as white Republicans. And that applies to the whole country, complacent though it has become. Time to rally. Here’s hoping that the times that are a changin’ will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.
Trayvon Martin will be spoken of in the same way that we speak of Rosa Sparks. He will be an emblem, a symbol, a rallying point for what will be the new civil rights war. And that is apparently what is needed. This injustice should not stand. Let’s all stand together.