Trayvon Martin Supporters Hope Justice Prevails
On the eve of the convening of a grand jury to hear secret testimony concerning the Trayvon Martin case, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey decided to forego that option.
The grand jury was supposed to begin deliberations about the Martin case in Sanford, Fla., on Tuesday, April 10. However, Corey's decision the day before was neither shocking nor unexpected, said Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).
"I'm not at all surprised," said Wilson during an interview Tuesday. "I knew her history and checked her out in Jacksonville. They said this is a lady who would prosecute a tulip. They told me she is such a bold prosecutor that the jails are brimming with prisoners. She won't release anyone, doesn't care if they are white, black or whatever."
Wilson said that the case has deeply affected her as a mother, a black woman and a legislator.
"He [Trayvon] lived in my Congressional district so I was definitely distraught," she said. "I knew his family. I'm distraught that no charges have been brought to bear. I just did not understand that. When they released the tapes, I was more and more distraught. It just breaks my heart."
Wilson said it's troubling that it took almost a month for Trayvon's death to come to public attention.
"The audacity of letting him [Zimmerman] go, brushing it under the rug. It's unconscionable," she said. "It's good that the parents called [the Rev. Al] Sharpton. I had no idea this had happened. It's all working in concert with the cover-up. His father is a retired judge so all of that is a part of the good ol' boy network."
Wilson said she remains convinced that justice will be served.
"I get a sense that there will be justice, I think she'll file charges and the Justice Department will as well," Wilson explained. "They [DOJ] are quiet about it but they are conducting an in-depth investigation. The case has to rise to the level of a hate crime."
"[Trayvon] wasn't breaking or entering, he had no 40-[ounce of beer] or a pack of cigarettes. His civil rights were abridged. Zimmerman will be in serious trouble."
Former Metropolitan Police Officer Ron Hampton said he was initially disheartened when he heard the Corey announcement.
"[However], there is still the opportunity to charge him with manslaughter. She can still charge him," said Hampton, who served 23 years with MPD. "The Sanford Police Department didn't follow through. They have to arrest him and make him make his case in a court of law and let the jury decide. I heard that Corey is tough too. Most state attorneys would do the opposite of what she did. She took it squarely on her shoulders. She can take this on and let justice be what it's going to be. But [black] people just don't have confidence in the criminal justice system."
Trayvon, a 17-year-old high student visiting his father in Sanford, Fla., was shot and killed by George Zimmerman on the evening of February 26. Zimmerman deemed the young man suspicious, followed him and during a scuffle Trayvon was shot once in the chest. Zimmerman claims to have feared for his life, despite a weight difference of more than 100 pounds. He was not arrested because Sanford police officials determined that he likely acted in self-defense.
Trayvon was not armed, and carried with him a pack of Skittles and an iced tea he had purchased from a 7-11 convenience store. His murder has generated outrage nationally and abroad and has brought to the forefront issues of race, vigilantism and gun laws in Florida that would allow someone to follow a person, confront him, kill him and then claim self-defense.
April 10 was designated "National Hoodie Day" by local radio personality Joe Madison at a Trayvon for Justice Rally in downtown Washington in late March. In the meantime, protestors held rallies in Tallahassee and Miami demanding that the authorities file murder charges against Zimmerman.
Tallahassee Mayor John Marks echoed the sentiments of black parents everywhere.
"But for the grace of God, Trayvon could have been my son," he said. "We're not here to try [Zimmerman] in the streets or through the press. We just want the justice system to work as it should."
Last week, Zimmerman hired a new legal team, and members asked the public to withhold judgment until the investigation into the shooting is concluded. However, one of Zimmerman's lawyers, Hal Uhrig, contends in a recent interview that Trayvon was responsible for his own death.
"It's because that 6-foot-3 young man made a terrible decision and a bad judgment when he decided to smack somebody in the face and break their nose, jump on them and smack their head into the ground, and in doing that, put him in reasonable fear for his safety," he said. "He was absolutely entitled to defend himself and that's why Trayvon Martin is dead, not because of racial profiling."
Zimmerman has also set up a website where he is soliciting donations to pay his legal expenses. Also on April 10, Zimmerman ended weeks of silence when he released a public statement on the website where he described Trayvon's death as a "life altering event." He added, "as a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family, and ultimately my entire life."
Right-wing media has attempted to portray Trayvon as a thug and a criminal.
His father Tracy Martin responded in an interview with The Nation of Islam's Final Call.
"I love my son and he was a wonderful gift just like any child is a gift to any other father," Martin said. "I as a father will not stand by and allow them to smear his character. I will stand tall on his name ... What many in the press choose to deal with in terms of the smear campaign is irrelevant to the crime committed by Zimmerman. My question to them is out of all the accusations they're making against Trayvon's character, was he doing any of that the night he was killed? Was he doing anything wrong the night Zimmerman murdered him? And the answer is no."
"We will not be detoured from the fight for justice regardless of what some in the media may say. We're standing up for Trayvon."
Hampton said Zimmerman clearly over-reacted.
"This is a sad commentary on the whole process," he said.
Hampton said he is vigorously opposed to Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which Zimmerman used to claim self-defense, calling it "vigilante legislation that authorizes people to use guns."
"The only reasonable part is using force according to the force applied. That means that you can't use a gun if the person does not have one," he asserted.
To those who argue that race was not an issue in Trayvon's death, Hampton is clear: "Race is always involved in our country. Zimmerman may not be a racist but he is influenced by stereotypes."
"This is another opportunity for us to have a conversation around race ... [but] we run away from [these] conversations ... we may have lost the opportunity."