The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 18      May 7, 2012

Trayvon Martin killing sparks
fight against pro-vigilante law
(front page)
SANFORD, Fla.—Nationwide demonstrations have subsided in the weeks following the April 11 indictment and arrest of George Zimmerman—the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin here. At the same time, discussion among working people and public meetings continue, many focused on the fight to repeal pro-vigilante “Stand Your Ground” laws enacted in states across the country in recent years and brought to the fore by the local police department’s refusal to arrest Zimmerman.

“What went through my mind was that finally the person who shot and killed my son was going to be held accountable for what he has done,” Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said on NBC’s “Today Show” when asked what she was thinking when prosecutor Angela Corey announced the indictment.

Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.

“Now that he’s charged, we’ll wait and see. He should have been charged from the beginning,” Dorothy Daniels, a retired custodian, told Militant correspondents in front of her house in a predominantly Black neighborhood here April 19.

Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s parents, participated in an April 19 town hall meeting titled “Standing Our Ground for Justice,” sponsored by the National Bar Association, a largely African-American organization of lawyers, in Tampa. The Florida Courier reported that about 300 people attended the meeting, which discussed the vigilante killing of Martin and called for protests against Stand Your Ground laws.

John Page, the association’s president-elect, called for “examining the effects of this law, particularly the increasing justified homicide claims in its wake.”

The Florida version of the law makes it legal for an individual to use deadly force in public “to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony,” even if there is a clear option to simply walk away.

Tanya Clay-House, the bar association’s Civil Rights Law Section Chair, told the crowd that the law encouraged “this vigilante justice that George Zimmerman ultimately acted upon by killing young Trayvon Martin.”

“You can’t, … as my boys at home call it, pick a fight and then kill somebody and say ‘I was standing my ground,’” said Benjamin Crump, attorney for the Martins.

The day before, several dozen students attended a memorial for Trayvon Martin at Florida International University in Miami. Martin’s mother and brother Jahvaris, an FIU student, attended the event, where students circulated petitions calling for repeal of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation.

Under the pressure of the popular mobilizations demanding action in Martin’s killing, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the formation of a task force April 18 to “review” the law. The 17-member “Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection” is headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and includes state Rep. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored the 2005 legislation, as well as a number of area neighborhood watch groups. Following the announcement of the commission, Baxley defended Stand Your Ground, telling The Associated Press he hoped the killing of Martin would “yield a better articulation of when and how the statute applies.” He voiced opposition to any changes that in his view would diminish citizens’ “ability to protect themselves.”

Carolyn Collins, president of the Hillsborough National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told people at the National Bar Association meeting to prepare for action when Scott’s panel comes to town: “When they come here to Tampa, be here.”

On April 19, the day before a court hearing on his request for bail while awaiting trial, Zimmerman asked to meet with Martin’s parents, saying he wanted to apologize to them.

“There may be a time and a place for that, but not right now,” Martin’s attorney told the press. “We believe Zimmerman’s request at this time is very self-serving, some 50 days later [after the killing of Martin], and the day before his bond hearing.”

The next day Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. granted Zimmerman bail, setting the amount at $150,000. Disregarding their statements, Zimmerman addressed Martin’s parents, who were present at the hearing, saying, “I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. … And I did not know whether he was armed or not.”

During the hearing investigator Dale Gilbreath, appearing as a defense witness, said authorities don’t know who started the fight between Martin and Zimmerman. He also said the prosecution has a witness who reported seeing one person chasing the other at the time and place Martin was killed and that the five police statements Zimmerman gave included points that were not consistent with physical evidence.

Zimmerman was released April 22 and went into hiding. He is allowed to move out of state, but was fitted with a GPS monitoring bracelet.
Related articles:
Havana conference protests killing of Trayvon Martin
Event recalls Harry Moore, Black rights fighter in Florida
Illinois rally protests killing by cops
Conference discusses legacy of struggle by blacks in Cuba
Havana event takes up fight against discrimination  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home