Justice, not smears, for Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman, the racist vigilante killer of Trayvon Martin, has launched a campaign through his lawyers to smear his victim. He wants to portray Martin, and indeed every Black youth, as a criminal gangster deserving of the death sentence that he, in fact, meted out to the unarmed 17-year-old on Feb. 26, 2012, in the gated community of Sanford, Fla.

The shooting and the initial failure of the police and courts to arrest Zimmerman sparked outrage not only in Sanford but across the country, indeed, around the world. Marches and demonstrations initiated by the galvanized African-American community and supporters put so much pressure on local authorities that finally the Florida attorney general was forced to charge Zimmerman with second-degree murder, two months after the fatal shooting took place. Zimmerman’s trial is set to begin June 10.

Florida Judge Debra Nelson barred Zimmerman and his lawyers from bringing up at the trial evidence of Martin’s marijuana use, suspension from school and fistfights (Christian Science Monitor, May 28). But the deed was already done. Zimmerman’s lawyers had already provided media outlets with text messages and photos of Martin that the press eagerly published.

This information is packaged to portray Trayvon Martin as a vicious criminal who savagely beat Zimmerman without provocation, and that his death was the result of self-defense. Even the hoodie that Martin wore when he was killed is used to paint this twisted picture.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

On Feb. 26, Trayvon Martin headed back to his father’s home after buying a package of Skittles and a can of iced tea at a neighborhood store. He was spotted and then stalked by the armed neighborhood watch “captain,” George Zimmerman, even though a police dispatcher told Zimmerman to stop following Martin. Near his father’s home, Martin was shot through the heart by Zimmerman.

When interviewed by a police detective after the shooting, Zimmerman admitted that he never told Martin that he was a member of the neighborhood watch or gave any other lawful reason to Martin as to why he was following him brandishing a pistol.

On a neighbor’s cell phone call to 911 during the incident, Trayvon Martin’s desperate cries for help can be heard before the fatal shot. And the police examination of Zimmerman’s gun showed that Martin never touched it.

The detective wanted to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter, and he was brought to the police station in handcuffs. But the police chief and county prosecutor stepped in and released without any charges this son of a local judge. The police did not even notify Trayvon Martin’s parents of their son’s death until hours later. Obviously, they thought they could sweep this under the rug as they have done so often before with the killings of Black and Brown youth.

But when members of the African-American community heard about the shooting, they, along with Martin’s parents, launched a huge campaign for justice for Trayvon Martin. Marches and demonstrations spread from Florida to cities across the country and overseas in March 2012.

The Sanford police chief was fired and the prosecutor who had refused to have Zimmerman arrested was forced off the case. Finally, George Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Zimmerman was released on $1 million bail, with the aid of his right-wing supporters, after spending less than a week in jail.

But this latest attack on Trayvon Martin, even after his death, shows that Zimmerman and his “team” are willing to use any racist tool to deny justice. And they are backed by the entire capitalist social system of police, courts, prisons and media based on the national oppression, particularly, of African-American youth.

But the campaign for justice for Trayvon Martin also remains strong and determined. June 10, the opening day of the trial, has been named “National Hoodie Day.” On that day, people are urged to wear a hoodie to call for justice for Trayvon Martin and his family. “Justice” means a conviction of Zimmerman and for the right of every oppressed youth to walk the streets free from racist terror from police and vigilantes like George Zimmerman.