Friday, March 23, 2012

Amy Goodman: Walking While Black: The Killing of Trayvon Martin, RALLY SUNDAY 3/25 2:00PM

Walking While Black: The Killing of Trayvon Martin
By Amy Goodman
Na­tionofChange: March 22, 2012

On the rainy night of Sun­day, Feb. 26, 17-year-old Trayvon Mar­tin walked to a con­ve­nience store in San­ford, Fla. On his way home, with his Skit­tles and iced tea, the African-Amer­i­can teenager was shot and killed. The gun­man, George Zim­mer­man, didn’t run. He claimed that he killed the young man in self-de­fense. The San­ford Po­lice agreed and let him go. Since then, wit­nesses have come for­ward, 911 emer­gency calls have been re­leased, and out­rage over the killing has gone global.

Trayvon Mar­tin lived in Miami. He was vis­it­ing his fa­ther in San­ford, near Or­lando, stay­ing in the gated com­mu­nity known as The Re­treat at Twin Lakes, where Zim­mer­man vol­un­teered with the Neigh­bor­hood Watch pro­gram. The Miami Her­ald re­ported that Zim­mer­man was a “ha­bit­ual caller” to the po­lice, mak­ing 46 calls since Jan­u­ary 2011. He was out on his rounds as a self-ap­pointed watch­man, pack­ing his con­cealed 9 mm pis­tol, when he called 911: “We’ve had some break-ins in my neigh­bor­hood, and there’s a real sus­pi­cious guy ... this guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or some­thing.”

Later in the call, Zim­mer­man ex­claims, “OK. These a—holes al­ways get away. ... [Ex­ple­tive], he’s run­ning.”

Sounds of Zim­mer­man mov­ing fol­low, along with a con­tro­ver­sial ut­ter­ance from Zim­mer­man, under his breath, con­sid­ered by many to be “[Ex­ple­tive] coons.” The sound of his run­ning prompted the 911 op­er­a­tor to ask, “Are you fol­low­ing him?” Zim­mer­man replied, “Yeah,” to which the dis­patcher said, “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

One of the at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the Mar­tin fam­ily, Jas­mine Rand, told me: “The term ‘coon’ on the au­dio­tape ... is a very ob­vi­ous racial slur against African-Amer­i­cans. We also heard the neigh­bors come for­ward and say, ‘Yeah, in this par­tic­u­lar neigh­bor­hood, we look for young black males to be com­mit­ting crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.’ And that’s ex­actly what George Zim­mer­man did that night. He found a young black male that he did not rec­og­nize, as­sumed that he did not be­long there, and he tar­geted him.”

An­other 911 call that has been re­leased is from a woman who hears some­one cry­ing for help, then a gun­shot.

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Eye­wit­nesses Mary Cutcher and Selma Mora Lamilla both heard the cries, which po­lice say could have been from Zim­mer­man, thus sup­port­ing his claim, even though he had a gun and out­weighed Trayvon Mar­tin by 80 pounds.

Cutcher said at a press con­fer­ence: “I feel it was not self-de­fense, be­cause I heard the cry­ing. And if it was Zim­mer­man that was cry­ing, Zim­mer­man would have con­tin­ued cry­ing after the shot went off. The only thing I saw that night—I heard the cry­ing. We were in the kitchen. I heard the cry­ing. It was a lit­tle boy. As soon as the gun went off, the cry­ing stopped. There­fore, it tells me it was not Zim­mer­man cry­ing.”

San­ford Po­lice Chief Bill Lee has de­fended his de­part­ment’s de­ci­sion not to ar­rest Zim­mer­man. They bagged Mar­tin’s body and took it away, la­bel­ing him a “John Doe,” even though they had his cell­phone, which any­one, let alone law en­force­ment with a shoot­ing vic­tim, could have used to eas­ily iden­tify a per­son. They tested Mar­tin’s corpse for drugs and al­co­hol. Zim­mer­man was not tested. Neigh­bors say that Zim­mer­man loaded things into a U-Haul truck and left the area.

So, while the po­lice and State At­tor­ney Norm Wolfin­ger have de­fended their in­ac­tion, a de­mo­c­ra­tic de­mand for jus­tice has ric­o­cheted around the coun­try, prompt­ing a U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion and lead­ing Wolfin­ger to promise to con­vene a grand jury. The Rev. Glenn Dames, pas­tor of St. James AME Church in nearby Ti­tusville, has called Mar­tin’s death “a mod­ern-day lynch­ing.” His de­mand for the im­me­di­ate ar­rest of Zim­mer­man was echoed by the or­ga­niz­ers of the “Mil­lion Hoodie March” in New York City, named after the often racially stereo­typed sweat­shirt Mar­tin was wear­ing in the rain when he was shot.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple has called for the re­moval of San­ford Po­lice Chief Lee. NAACP Pres­i­dent Ben Jeal­ous, re­count­ing a mass meet­ing in a San­ford-area church Tues­day night, quoted a local res­i­dent who stood up and said, “‘If you kill a dog in this town, you’d be in jail the next day.’ Trayvon Mar­tin was killed four weeks ago, and his killer is still walk­ing the streets.”

With his gun.

© 2011 Amy Good­man
Dis­trib­uted by King Fea­tures Syn­di­cate

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