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Published Apr 4, 2012 9:48 PM

Trayvon Martin

April 3 — As each day passes without an arrest of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, the anger and outrage around the country among the grassroots masses increase tenfold. It has been 37 days since Martin, a 17-year-old African American, was fatally shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., as he was returning home from buying iced tea and a bag of Skittles candy. A so-called neighborhood watchman, Zimmerman stalked the unarmed teenager with a 9mm gun, then shot him in the chest as Martin cried for help. Zimmerman’s “excuse” for going after Martin was that he looked “suspicious” because he was wearing a hoodie.

Zimmerman has said that he shot Martin in self-defense because the youth attacked him, jumping on him, slamming Zimmerman’s head on the sidewalk and giving him a bloody nose. Those claims were discredited when a police surveillance tape emerged several days ago showing no visible major injuries when Zimmerman was brought in for questioning after the shooting.

The police did not charge or arrest Zimmerman for the killing based on the “Stand Your Ground” Florida law, which states that anyone who feels threatened can defend themselves, including killing someone, without fear of legal reprisal.

After the shooting Martin’s body, but not Zimmerman’s, was checked for drugs.

Richard Kurtz, the Miami funeral director who prepared Martin’s body for burial, publicly stated: “Trayvon Martin’s body showed no signs of a violent brawl.” He went on to say, “As for his hands and knuckles, I didn’t see any evidence he had been fighting anybody.” (www.cnn.com, March 28)

Zimmerman also claimed that the cries for help heard on a 911 audio tape, which documented what led up to the shooting, were made by Zimmerman. However, forensic experts have reported that those pleas could not have come from Zimmerman. A special prosecutor, Angela Corey, has been assigned by the Florida State Attorney’s Office to decide whether charges will be brought against Zimmerman. Corey is expected to make an announcement by April 10.

What Trayvon Martin’s death symbolizes

African Americans have been in the forefront of the many demonstrations around the country since the circumstances surrounding Martin’s death, and the lack of an arrest, broke through in social media three weeks after the Feb. 26 killing. Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, have played highly visible roles in bringing attention to what happened to their son.

Martin’s tragic death has completely shattered the myth that a postracial society has emerged in the U.S. since the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama.

Martin’s death has done more than any other recent killing to expose the growing epidemic of racial profiling of youth of color, especially young Black and Latino men. Martin’s death is helping to elevate the local cases of young Black men all over the country who have had their lives tragically cut short by either the police or racist vigilantism.

In so many of these instances, character assassination of the victim is pushed by the police and the media as a way to justify a killing or a brutal beating. In this case, the fact that Martin was once suspended from school for having drug residue in his book bag was used to attempt to demonize him and take attention from the real issue of Martin being murdered because he was Black.

Demonstrations have been the largest in Florida and especially in Sanford, where Martin was killed while visiting his father. In the most recent rally there on March 31, protesters marched to the Sanford police station. Thousands upon thousands of people, the vast majority of them African American but also Latino/a and white, marched and chanted, “Justice for Trayvon Martin! Arrest George Zimmerman!”

Students have staged walkouts from their high schools especially in Miami, where Martin attended school. Many have stated that what happened to Trayvon could easily happen to them if walking or driving while Black. Others have stated that if Martin had been the shooter and the victim had been white, the Stand Your Ground law would not have applied to him in the eyes of the police. Many of the protesters wear hoodies and carry a bag of Skittles and iced tea.

In Indianapolis on April 1, Black churchgoers staging a protest in solidarity with Trayvon Martin decided to block traffic for 45 minutes. Thirteen members refused to disperse when police told them to do so, and they were arrested. College campuses are staging Justice for Trayvon Martin rallies around the country.

Celebrities are expressing outrage at the handling of Martin’s case, including pro-football player Ray Lewis; popular singers Prince, Chaka Khan, Betty Wright and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; the Miami Heat basketball team players; other pro-basketball players, Will Bynum, Greg Monroe and Steve Nash. A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer organizations issued a joint statement calling for justice for Trayvon Martin. Read the statement at www.workers.org.

Protests in solidarity with Trayvon Martin are also growing in other parts of the world, including Toronto, Paris and Sydney, Australia. In London, thousands are expected to attend a protest today. Last summer, a widespread rebellion broke out in London when a youth of color was fatally shot by the police. A London paper stated that while the killing was a spark, the real issue behind the rebellion was the lack of jobs for young people.

A similar situation could easily break out in the U.S., given the alarming rate of incarceration and unemployment of youth, especially if they are Black and Brown.