Complied by Courier Staff
and George Curry,
NNPA exclusive coverage
The story begins with the heartache of a family losing their 17 year-old son, yet it continues to grow and touch countless people across the country. Rev. Al Sharpton was asked to weigh in on why he thought this story is touching some many people. “What happened to Trayvon is that it brought to the surface the fear that all of us have for our children and ourselves. I think White America was stunned. Black America became ignited when we finally got it out there. They [Whites] thought having a Black president had solved it. And now, people working in their offices, in the next cubicle, were saying, ‘No, this is me.’ They relate to Trayvon – it was me.”
After three weeks of mobilizing on social media, keeping the story alive in Black newspapers and African American radio, the mounting pressure forced Sanford, Fla. officials to release the 911 tapes. Those tapes – which show that Zimmerman disobeyed the 911 dispatcher’s directive that he not follow Trayvon – along with the decision not to arrest Zimmerman, forced Police Chief Bill Lee to temporarily step down as police chief last Thursday.
On April 10, a grand jury will be convened to determine whether Zimmerman should be indicted. Both the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division and the FBI are looking into the case to determine if any federal statues were violated.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection to investigate how such tragedies can be avoided in the future. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll will chair the special panel. Rev. R.B. Holmes, Jr, publisher of the Capital Outlook in Tallahassee, will serve as vice chair.
Sharpton led a rally Thursday night of more than 30,000 people in Sanford, many of them from around the nation. Referring to the police chief, Sharpton said, “We did not come here for a temporary leave of absence. We came for permanent justice – arrest Zimmerman now.”
On Friday, President Obama expressed concern about the case.
“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state, and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened,” Obama said. He added, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
If the son had dressed like Trayvon, he would have come under criticism.
On the March 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera said, “I am urging the parents of Black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”
For some reason, Blacks are stigmatized for wearing a hoodie – a sweatshirt with a hood attached to it – but Whites, such as New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, are not.
NBA star Dwayne Wade posted a photo of himself Friday in a hooded top to his social media pages, while LeBron James tweeted a photo of 13 Miami Heat players wearing black hoodies with their heads bowed in a tribute to Trayvon.
“I saw a post that D-Wade had saying, ‘I am Trayvon Martin,’” Tracy Martin (Trayvon’s father) said. “To see all these athletes put Trayvon in the same sentence with them, it feels real good. Trayvon was an excellent athlete and if he could hear them saying his name, he would be so moved by it.”
On Sunday, many churches honored Trayvon, who was wearing a hoodie when he was killed.
Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, preached the 11 a.m. service in a Morehouse College hoodie.
In his sermon, Warnock compared Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago youth who was murdered near Money, Miss. in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a White woman. “Both young boys were killed for crossing some imaginary social line,” Warnock said. “Mr. Zimmerman took a gun to a Skittles fight. Apparently Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty and Trayvon is guilty until proven innocent.”
Sybrina Fulton is still living with the pain of her son’s death.
“It just reminds me of an awful dream,” she said in the conference call with NNPA publishers. “It just seems like the pain goes away temporarily and then it comes back. It just feels like my heart is just heavy. I still have tears, I still cry. It’s just difficult. Each day is just difficult to get by.”
That pain was exacerbated Monday with the disclosure Monday that Trayvon was given a 10-day school suspension after traces of marijuana were found in his book bag. At a hastily called news conference, the family lawyer said the disclosure is irrelevant to the tragic events of Feb. 26. With her voice breaking, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, said: “They’ve killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation.”
Sanford police claim they couldn’t arrest Zimmerman because he was protected under Florida Statute 776.013 (3), the state’s stand your ground law that gives citizens broad protection if they are acting in self-defense.
Jeb Bush, who as governor of Florida signed the stand your ground bill into law, said the legislation does not cover the neighborhood watch captain who shot Trayvon Martin to death.
“This law does not apply to this particular circumstance,” Bush said after an education panel discussion at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”
Former New York Gov. David Patterson said, “The only reason that the self-defense law has come up is that it was raised by the shooter as a pretext for why he shot a 17- year-old kid who had Skittles and an iced tea when he had a car and a 9 millimeter gun. Zimmerman is the pursuer at all points in this situation. He is always the aggressor. He is always moving forward and the victim is moving backward. Somehow, when the police write the story, those two elements got turned around.”
Joe Oliver, the only Black friend of George Zimmerman who is willing to show his face on camera, told Chris Mathews of “Hardball” that “coon” is not a racial slur. According to the Martin family’s attorney Benjamin Crump, it is believed the the word, “coon” or “goon” was used during Zimmerman’s call to the police. The tapes are being professionally analyzed to corrected identify the word used. But despite the clarification Oliver found himself defending the word. With the following explanation, ““…To me, it’s a matter of interpretation whether he’s saying coon or goon. There are parts of this country where people proudly call themselves “coon a***s” in Louisiana in particular…” Oliver has also stated that Zimmerman is in hiding, on medication for depression and suffering from Post Traumatic Syndrome.
Crump, the family attorney, called it a case of racial profiling.
“He used every stereotype for a Black man you can use,” the lawyer said. “He said, No.1, he looked suspicious. No.2, he must be high. No. 3, he’s looking to break in some place. And the police took that as gospel.”
Reflecting on the moment he was asked by police to identify his son, Tracy Martin said, “I can’t describe the feeling, I can’t describe what was going through my mind because I was actually staring at a photo of my pride and joy on the ground dead. I still see the photo now – his eyes weren’t closed all the way, his mouth wasn’t closed, it was the worst feeling of my life.”