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Trayvon Martin Deserves Justice

Mar 24, 2012

Trayvon Martin Deserves Justice

Trayvon Martin was walking home with a bag of skittles and an iced tea when his killer, George Zimmerman, stalked, hunted down and shot him. Why Florida's Stand Your Ground Law is both wrong, and wrongly applied to this tragedy

Trayvon Martin was walking home with a bag of skittles and an iced tea when his killer, George Zimmerman, stalked, hunted down and shot him.  Based on recorded 911 calls, Zimmerman, who was part of a “neighborhood watch,” decided to take the law into his own hands, suspicious of a black man who was walking alone in his neighborhood.  Trayvon’s only “crime” was being an African American teen in a hoodie and sneakers.  He was unarmed, defenseless against the gun Zimmerman had concealed. 

And yet, Zimmerman remains free today. The State Attorney General of Florida hasn’t yet acted, weeks into the incident, and the police chief of Sanford, Florida, who recently stepped aside, believes his station was powerless to issue an arrest due to under Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” shoot-first law.

It used to be the case in Florida, and 20 other states before they enacted similar laws, that if you felt you were in danger in public but had an ability to retreat safely, that this was your obligation.  But in 2005 that changed, with gun proponents targeting Florida as a prime state to argue that ordinary citizens had a right to shoot first if they felt threatened. But how is this feeling of being threatened measured? Do I have the right to shoot someone who tries to wash my car window? Or if someone drives by slowly with country music playing and a Union Jack as a bumper sticker, can I fire away? Or as here, if someone feels endangered merely by someone else’s skin color, however unjustified that may be, does that give him the right to shoot? Sadly, under the law as applied, this is exactly authorities say happened, and why their hands were tied.

But let’s be clear about one thing:  The “Stand Your Ground” law as applied here is a red herring.  The police report itself notes that this was an “unlawful” killing, and that Zimmerman pursued Trayvon even though the police told him to stay away.  He didn’t “stand his ground” against an attacker–he followed him, and then a confrontation ensued. That takes this violence outside of even that ill-conceived law. Indeed, ironically, if anyone had the right to “stand his ground” and shoot, it would have been Trayvon. But all this poor boy had was an iced tea and skittles.

So while the Stand Your Ground law should be revisited, let’s not pretend it’s what this case boils down to. Trayvon’s parents aren’t looking for revenge.  They want what we should all want:  Justice under the law, equally applied. Join the nearly 2,000,000 people who have signed a petition urging the State of Florida to take action in this case and arrest George Zimmerman.  Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the left of the screen. Stand with me, and Trayvon’s parents, for equality and equal treatment under the law.