On February 26 in Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman murdered unarmed 17-year old, Trayvon Martin on his way back from 7-Eleven during half-time of the NBA All-Star game, carrying iced-tea and Skittles. Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, spotted Martin and placed a 911 call to report who he said was “a real suspicious guy” in the area.
Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher that “this guy looks like he’s up to no good…he’s a black male…and these assholes, they always get away.” At one point, Trayvon begins running away from who he must have thought was some crazy guy chasing him. Zimmerman left his vehicle to chase Trayvon on foot. Soon after police were at the scene pronouncing Trayvon dead.
Zimmerman was taken to the police station for questioning and said that he had followed, pursued, confronted and killed Trayvon all in self-defense. He says Trayvon punched him and jumped on top of him. This was enough for the police, and so Zimmerman was released and free to get back to patrolling the neighborhood again. As of this writing, he has yet to be charged with any crime.
Trayvon spent the next 24 hours in the morgue while his family desperately searched for him. The police decided it wasn’t worth checking Trayvon’s cell-phone to alert relatives. They assumed that the 17-year old Black teenager with his candy and tea was the aggressor, not the man who shot him, not the man who expressed his hatred of African Americans on the 911 call, not the man who chased Trayvon Martin down with a gun and shot him in the middle of the neighborhood.
The police say they did not have enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman. When Zimmerman referred to a Black 17-year old as “an asshole that always gets away” and then went chasing after him armed with a loaded 9mm gun, the police don’t think there is any evidence to suspect Zimmerman of murder. The police seem to share Zimmerman’s hatred of African American youth being in a gated community. Is there any doubt of the outcome if the roles were reversed? Imagine an African American teen killing a neighborhood watch volunteer and walking out of the police station completely free after only saying it was self-defense.
Zimmerman has been able to walk free after gunning down an unarmed 17-year old. The message is clear – the life of a young African American is not worth anything in this society; the law doesn’t apply when the victim is Black. This is the same racism behind the murder of unarmed 22 year old Oscar Grant by Oakland BART police, behind the murder of 19-year old Kenneth Harding by SF police, and the same racism that has taken the lives of countless others in this society everyday.
There’s no question that the murder of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy that could have been avoided. But it is not uncommon. The only reason this murder has gotten any attention at all is because the Martin family has refused to remain silent, inspiring thousands of others to organize protests across the country. Starting in Florida and spreading to New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco, thousands have gathered to express their outrage at this murder and the widespread racism and violence that underlies it.
People are taking to the streets not in mourning but in anger. And we all have a right to be angry. We have a right not to allow this murder to be ignored. We refuse to ignore the fact that George Zimmerman has been free to walk the streets for one month after gunning down Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman has been free to spend time with his family and is now hiding from any backlash while Trayvon Martin is no longer free to do anything.
We have a choice in the face of this assault on our families, our friends, our neighbors, our lives. We have a choice to stand together and raise our voices and show our strength and say we will not allow the murder of Trayvon Martin and the countless others to be forgotten. We cannot allow the dreams and hopes for a decent life to be stripped away from children and youth by the violence and racism in this society.