Trayvon Martin: no justice, no peace

Trayvon Martin, aged 17, was walking home with some sweets and iced tea when he was shot in cold blood by George Zimmerman. After making an emergency 911 call to police to report a black male behaving suspiciously and, despite being told not to follow him by the operator, Zimmerman got out of his truck, went after Martin and shot him dead.

At the time of writing Zimmerman has not been arrested, because, according to police, he was protected by Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law which gives citizens who perceive a threat the right to use deadly force. At least 23 other States have passed similar laws, dubbed ‘Shoot First, Ask Questions Afterwards’ laws by opponents. In Florida, in the first five years of the law’s operation, ‘justifiable homicides’ in Florida more than tripled, to over 100 in 2010 from just over 30. The Stand Your Ground law was invoked in at least 93 cases over that time period, involving 65 deaths. The law has been used to excuse killings in bar brawls, gang shoot-outs and road-rage incidents.

Zimmerman’s father claims that his son is not a racist and that he has ‘many black family members and friends’. Zimmerman’s best friends may well be black, but he can be heard muttering ‘fucking coons’ under his breath on the emergency services recording of his call. Zimmerman was a wannabe cop, studied criminal justice, and was a self-appointed watch captain to an unofficial neighbourhood watch organization. His criminal history shows confrontations with police and accusations against him of domestic violence.

If anything could be worse than Zimmerman’s actions, it is the Sanford police department, who failed to treat the scene as a crime scene and who allowed Zimmerman to go free. The department has a history of racism. In 2010, the department waited seven weeks before arresting a lieutenant’s son who was caught on video sucker-punching a homeless black man. In 2005, two security guards – one the son of a long-time Sanford police officer and the other a department volunteer – killed a black man they said was trying to run them over. The guards ultimately were acquitted despite complaints from the black community.

Students from 31 Miami-Dade County schools walked out of class on Friday in a mass rally against the execution of Trayvon Martin. The demonstrations spread to 19 high schools, many of them predominantly black, and at least 10 middle schools from Homestead to North Dade, where kids left class en masse. About 10 Broward County schools also held protests. The Miami Heat, one of the country’s top basketball teams, posed for pictures wearing hoodies. Thousands of people marched in Philadelphia. Thousands also gathered in New York’s Union Square. Smaller protests have taken place in Houston and Washington DC and more are planned across the country. Such is the scale of the outrage that even President Obama has been forced to demand an investigation into the killing. Justice for Trayvon Martin!

No justice, no peace!

Steve Palmer

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012


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