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Trayvon Martin matters

Note: I have amended a few items as more accurate information comes out.

Update: George Zimmerman has apparently handed himself into police and will be charged with second-degree murder.

My little brother is 17. The same age as Trayvon Martin was when he was shot dead on his way home from buying some sweets at a local shop. His crime? Being deemed “suspicious” by self-appointed head of the Neighbourhood Watch, George Zimmerman. You can probably read “suspicious” as “black” in this instance.

The sequence of events was as follows:

  • Zimmerman calls 911 to report a suspicious-looking youth walking down the street.
  • 911 operator tells Zimmerman that they are sending the police and not to confront Trayvon.
  • Zimmerman disobeys this order, leaves his car and follows Trayvon.
  • Neighbours call 911 after hearing a man (thought to be Trayvon by nearly all the witnesses) screaming for help for about a minute before a gunshot silences him.
  • Zimmerman claims that he and Trayvon fought, invokes the “Stand Your Ground” law (explained below) and is not arrested.

It transpires that Zimmerman was a prolific 911-caller, to the extent that the legitimate Neighbourhood Watch wanted nothing to do with him and complaints had been made about his hysterical behaviour. He also had a criminal record, for assault and battery of a police officer while resisting arrest. The charges had been dropped since the incident occurred in 2005.

Zimmerman has invoked what is referred to as the “Stand Your Ground” law, a piece of legislature in Florida. It gives people the authority to use lethal force to defend themselves if they feel their life is in danger, rather than retreating. This law has been Zimmerman’s saving grace. All he needed to do was claim that he thought his life was in danger to avoid arrest.

It’s worth mentioning that from Trayvon’s perspective, a strange man watched him from a window before exiting his car and starting to follow him. He may have even seen the gun. What happened between Martin and Zimmerman in Martin’s final moments is unclear. However, I don’t see how Zimmerman can be excused from this. If the pair did fight, it’s likely because Trayvon thought he was being attacked. Zimmerman was the one who initiated contact by following the boy.

Taking race out of the equation (although it’s almost certainly a factor), a crime was committed. The fact that there has even been a question about arresting Zimmerman is ridiculous. In any confrontation, Zimmerman would have to be viewed as the aggressor. I know that if a strange man stopped me on the street waving a gun, he would be attacking me. Not the other way around.

I’m not American; it’s not my place to criticise American law or pass judgement on a racist climate that I can’t understand. It is, however, my duty to spread this story in the name of justice. Because I know if it was my little brother who was in Trayvon’s place, I would not be okay with some guy with a God complex getting away with murder. This was a kid carrying some ice tea and skittles who was followed, accosted and killed for no reason. He deserves justice.

The following video explains the situation quite well. (There is some profanity. There is also recording of a 911 call made by a neighbour in which Trayvon can be heard screaming for help. Some people may find this disturbing).