- Faith & Family
The shooting and death of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin, 17, has come under the purview of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — three weeks after the unarmed youth was killed by a neighborhood watchman who claims he was acting in self defense. Trayvon and his father, Tracy Martin, were on vacation in Sanford, just north of Orlando, when the former Michael Krop Senior High School student was confronted by George Zimmerman, 28, who had called the police on numerous occasions because of what he allegedly referred to as “suspicious sightings.”
Zimmerman was initially questioned by local authorities but was neither arrested nor charged, invoking Florida’s contentious Stand Your Ground Law as the justification for shooting the youth. Martin was found with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Sanford police released the 911 tapes late Friday night that shed more light on the encounter between Martin and Zimmerman as well as the slain boy’s final living moments.
On Monday, the Justice Department, the FBI the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, decided to conduct an investigation into the shooting after being bombarded by a slew of complaints.
Meanwhile, the parents of Trayvon Martin have secured the services of Attorney Ben Crump and are preparing for a showdown in Sanford next Monday, March 26th, when they will go before the city officials in Sanford to officially lodge their complaints and to participate in a protest rally that appears to be growing in size with each passing day. As this story went to press, Crump said a petition calling for Zimmerman’s arrest had already garnered close to 500,000 signatures.
Father says police continue to lie
In an interview with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, along with their attorney, Martin says he believes justice will only be served if federal officials lead the way in the investigation.
“Several people from the Sanford Police Department have lied to us — they lied to us from the beginning and so it’s hard to have confidence in the system,” he said. “When one detective spoke with me I asked him if they had conducted a background check on the shooter [Zimmerman] and was told that his record was clean. But now we hear that isn’t the case. They did check my son’s background and found, as I had indicated, that he did not have a police record. Our son was murdered and it was an act of injustice. Our son didn’t do anything to deserve this. Everyone home in Miami is behind us and, like us, want to see this guy arrested and charged. Trayvon’s fate has been decided — but his murderer continues to walk the streets.”
Both parents live in Miami-Dade County, but Fulton was raising Martin in Miami Gardens as a single mother. Martin was visiting his girlfriend with his son in Sanford when the tragic shooting occurred. Both parents say they were working together to raise their son. They add that they were devastated when they heard the 911 tapes.
The case continues to gain national attention, dominating headlines across the country. Letters of support have been sent to the family while some have demanded a thorough investigation by unbiased legal officials.
Was Martin a victim of racial profiling?
“I am saddened and distressed by the killing of an unarmed, 17-year-old high school student — we have heard the expressions of outrage and the accusations of those who believe that that the killing was unlawful and may have been racially motivated,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan.
Meanwhile, grassroots activists, including Renita Holmes and Brian Dennis, say they plan to join the family in Sanford next Monday and hope to take a convoy to show they stand in solidarity with the victim and his loved ones who mourn his death.
“Trayvon Martin was one of our children and nothing warranted him being shot,” said Dennis, president of Brothers of the Same Mind. “The shooter should be charged with murder because he clearly knew what he was doing and hunted that boy down.”
Holmes, the founder of WAAIVE and a community activist, says she has enlisted the support of a growing number of Miamians, including Ronald Fulton, the uncle of the deceased youth, Clark Atlanta University Alumni Association, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the New Black Panther Party. They will be traveling to Sanford to camp out before Monday’s city commission meeting.
“This is not a freedom ride — it’s about unfinished business,” she said. “Black mothers and fathers have grown tired of burying their children. There are many in this state and in this nation who do not value the lives of young Black boys and girls.”
On Tuesday, Bishop Victor T. Curry, pastor of New Birth and the president of the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP, used his Tuesday Talk radio show to allow citizens to vent and share their views on the Martin shooting.
“We need as many voices out there as possible to speak out,” he said. “As to the Stand Your Ground Law, we really need to have Eric Holder’s office look into this law and determine whether the shooter has a viable claim of self defense. In the past, we have been more successful when the Attorney General’s Office gets involved as opposed to officials from the state or local levels. Nothing has changed here in Florida. The same issues and challenges that Black men face each day continue in Miami-Dade, Broward, West Palm Beach and across the U.S. — no one should be surprised — but we should outraged.”
As for the father of Trayvon Martin, he says race still matters.
“If my son, a Black youth, had shot a white man, we would be talking to him from behind a glass window in jail — instead we found ourselves burying our little boy,” he said.
A Peace March rally in support of the family of Trayvon Martin will be held on Wednesday, March 21 at 5 p.m. The march will begin at Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park, NW 62nd Street and NW 12th Avenue.
By D. Kevin McNeir