By Chris Cronin
Elm Staff Writer

On Feb. 26, a 17-year-old black teenager named Trayvon Martin was shot dead in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. His shooter was 28-year-old half-white, half-Latino neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, but Martin was found unarmed. The police did not arrest Zimmerman and still have not filed charges, claiming Zimmerman was “squeaky clean.” It has since come out that Zimmerman in fact has a history of violent behavior, having been arrested in 2005 for battery and resisting arrest, and also having been accused of domestic violence by an ex-fiancée. He continues to carry the weapon he used to kill Martin.

Complicating things, there is probably a racial element to the shooting. Zimmerman first called the police to indicate that Martin was engaging in “suspicious behavior” and that he was “probably on drugs,” though Martin was merely walking to his father’s girlfriend’s house to watch basketball. Zimmerman was told by the police not to follow Martin, but he continued to pursue him. Martin’s girlfriend claimed that Martin called her at this time, distressed to because he was being followed by a strange man. Some listeners have also reported hearing Zimmerman use a racial slur in one of his calls to the police, but there is no clear evidence of this.

The Sanford Police Department has also been condemned for not filing charges. It emerged later that the detective in charge of the case had recommended charging Zimmerman with manslaughter, but the charges were denied by the state prosecutor’s office, which claimed that there was insufficient evidence.
Additionally, the claim that Zimmerman was “squeaky clean” has garnered deserved scorn given his violent past. A witness to the shooting had also claimed that she was not given sufficient time or attention to recount what she saw.

Already, perennial civil rights activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have adopted the case, attempting to push it as a racist hate crime. The NAACP has accused the Sanford Police Department of acting with bias. There has been much debate in the media as to what exactly made Martin appear suspicious, with some commentators pointing to his race and others to the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing.

But despite circumstantial accounts and media speculation, there is no clear evidence that Zimmerman had racist motives. The same goes for the Sanford Police Department’s failure to charge Zimmerman; their hesitation came from a Florida statute known as the “Stand Your Ground Law,” giving Zimmerman the right to stand and fire for as long as he felt that he was in danger.

There is no doubt that Martin’s death is a deplorable and tragic incident. That Zimmerman remains free, uncharged, and still in possession of the weapon he used to kill a teenager is inexcusable. Zimmerman may very well be innocent under the law, but it is not up to the police to make that decision. He should be arrested and arraigned, and a Grand Jury of his peers should decide whether or not there is enough evidence to charge him.

But at the same time, we must remember what this case is really about—a teenager who was shot and killed by a man with no official authority to do so and who was allowed to operate with impunity due to an unjust law. Whether there was a racial element to the shooting or not is less important than the fundamental injustice that Zimmerman has still not been challenged in court for the killing of another human being. If Sharpton and Jackson really care about justice for Martin, they need to stop crying racism, at least for now, and start taking a good hard look at the law that is protecting his killer.

The Elm

One thought on “Trayvon Martin Case is About More Than Race

  1. How long did it take the girlfriend of Trayvon Martin to notify his father that Trayvon was in trouble? Was Trayvon’s father used to his son being out overnight? How long did his father take before he reported his son missing? Wasn’t he expected to return to watch the game with his father?

    Why didn’t the police try to notify the parents/father of this child who was dead of a gunshot wound regardless of the circumstances creating this shooting death? Where are the photographs of the dead child? Who picked up the body from the scene of the shooting? Where’s that report? Was he dead at the scene or was it a DOA? How long did it take before the body was turned over to the coroner’s office. Where are the clothes from both the deceased & the shooter from the night of the shooting? Is it a big assumption on my part that these articles were collected by the police as evidence, or did they assume that there wouldn’t be an investigation into this matter? Why would they arrive at that conclusion? If George Zimmerman was wounded on the scene of the shooting, why didn’t the EMTs attend to him and file a report, or generate a bill for treatment at the scene?

    By Janet Kennedy Apr 05,2012 @ 7:23 pm

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