Tag Archive | "Trayvon Martin"


Hartford Joins Nation in ‘Justice for Trayvon’ March

HARTFORD — Hundreds of Greater Hartford residents are expected to join the nation as they hold a peaceful vigil in the ‘Justice for Trayvon’ March expected in about 100 cities this Saturday.

trayvon-martin-hartfordTrayvon Martin’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin are expected to stand with Rev. Al Sharpton and National Action Network for the “Justice for Trayvon” in 100 city vigils.

Sybrina Fulton and her surviving son Jahvaris Fulton will stand with Rev. Al Sharpton and NAN at One Police Plaza at Noon in New York, while Trayvon’s father Tracy Martin will join NAN’s Southeast Regional Chairman and Florida chapter a the Miami location for the “100-city Justice for Trayvon” vigil.

Hundreds of national preachers, led by Rev. Al Sharpton and NAN will hold prayer vigils and rallies in front of federal buildings calling on the Justice Department to investigate the civil rights violations made against Trayvon Martin.

RELATED: Trayvon Martin’s Parents Speak Out On ‘The View’

Hartford, CT
Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building
450 Main Street
Hartford, CT
Contact: Ngoc Pham


New Haven, CT
United States Department of Justice
157 Church Street
New Haven, CT
11:00 AM
Contact: National Action Network Regional Chapter (CT)
(203) 996-8347

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President Obama Speaks on Race in America

obama2013-swornin-thumbVideo and Transcript of Obama’s Remarks on Race

By Ann-Marie Adams

Here it is. President Barack Obama stepped into the White House briefing room and gave a speech about the verdict in the case against George Zimmerman, who killed an unarmed teenage boy as he walked home with ice tea and skittles.

The president spoke on personal terms about being black in America.

Here’s the White House’s  video and a transcript.

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Why the Zimmerman Jury Failed Us

By Lawrence D. Bobo

(The Root) –– America is racist at its core. I used to doubt this simplistic claim. Today I cannot. The murder of Trayvon Martin demands total, simple, honesty. A jury in Florida failed us. We have not seen a moral failure this grave since a similarly all-white jury in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1992 acquitted the four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King.

Writing in the same year as that ill-fated verdict, the distinguished civil rights lawyer Derrick Bell declared that “racism is an integral, permanent and indestructible component of this society.” In most circumstances, I treat this declaration as a foil: a claim to be slowly picked apart as, at best, too easy and, at worst, deeply unfair and wrong. Not today.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionThe most elemental facts of this case will never change. A teenager went out to buy Skittles and iced tea. At some point, he was confronted by a man with a gun who killed him. There is no universe I understand where this can be declared a noncriminal act. Not in a sane, just and racism-free universe.

There is only one universe in which such a judgment can happen. It is the same universe in which jurors can watch slow-motion video of four armed police officers beating a man and conclude that the man being beaten dictated everything that happened.

Two features of this universe loom large. First, it requires immersion in a culture of contempt, derision and at bottom, profound dehumanization of African Americans, particularly black men. You have to be well-prepared to believe the very worst about black people in order to reach such a conclusion. In particular, you have to proceed as if that person constituted a different, lesser former of humanity. Without that deep-rooted bias in the American cultural fabric, we would find that people would readily bring a powerful sense of basic shared human insight and empathy to the Trayvon-Zimmerman encounter.

Second, it requires that the panel judging whether or not a crime has taken place include not a single member of the victims’ racial background group. It really doesn’t work without that condition. The odds that anyone in the jury room openly rejected the arguments of “reasonable racism” — i.e., that enough of these people are criminals that it is basically OK to treat them all as suspects till they prove otherwise — went from low to near absolute zero when a singularly nondiverse jury was empaneled, as was true in Simi Valley. As a result, there was almost certainly nobody there who would say during the deliberations: “No, it is not OK to view me, a law-abiding black person, as criminal. It is not OK to ask me, in my own neighborhood, if I ‘belong,’ ‘what I’m doing’ or ‘where am I going.’ ” And it certainly is not OK to do so armed with a gun and in a presumably threatening manner. This is why diverse juries are critical to achieving justice in a case like Zimmerman’s.

But that is not the jury that was empaneled. In fact, the defense was wisely strategic in opting for a six-person jury; this decreased even further the odds that the panel would include someone likely to raise such concerns.

I feel ineffable anguish for Trayvon’s parents. Their son has, effectively, been murdered twice. No parents should have to suffer such pain and indignity. I feel sad for black parents from one end of this country to the other, especially the parents of young black boys. What do you tell a black teen today? What should they take from this trial? That a prosecutor wasn’t as good as the defense in a particular trial? That the evidence just wasn’t strong enough? That six honest people did their duty? I don’t think so. This just isn’t good enough.

The reason it isn’t good enough is that the elemental facts of this case will never change, and this jury made the wrong, morally bankrupt decision. We have public trials so that we may all observe and see a system dedicated to justice under the law striving toward that end. On too many dimensions, this trial sent the wrong message.

Truth is, however, I expected no more than what we got. As soon as the jury was empaneled, I had the terrible feeling of déjà vu and dreaded expectation that this would prove to be another Simi Valley situation. And it did.

I might not feel so bitter if the U.S. Supreme Court had not just gutted the Voting Rights Act. I might not feel so bitter if the same court had not just effectively established, in my estimation, an unattainable standard for constitutionally permissible consideration of race in pursuit of diversity in admission to colleges and universities. Indeed, I might not feel so bitter if stop and frisk was not an accepted practice in arguably the most tolerant city in America. But all of these things are true. And it sickens me.

Aggravating me almost as much is the lack of any organized, focused response to all these conditions from within the African-American community. To be sure, this is not the place or time for another critique of black leadership or the black middle class.

Were he still with us, I think Derrick Bell would counsel realism, which to him meant giving up on the naive dream that America would ever relinquish a commitment to racism and white supremacy. I am angry, outraged and disappointed with this verdict, but even at this moment, I cannot embrace this level of pessimism.

The path ahead is not an easy one. Trayvon’s killing demands justice. The need to bear witness here is clear. A decision that is the living embodiment of racism in our body politic happened, even if not a single member of that jury understood themselves as acting in such a way (I’m quite sure they didn’t). That is the power of cultural racism: When it is this deeply embedded in our basic cultural toolkit, it need not be named or even consciously embraced to work its ill effects.

Lots of us are disappointed and angry right now. Seething bitterness, however, is not a solution, nor is violence or striking out. The way forward is one of hard work on social and political organizing, as well as of forcing honest and painful discussions, and a passionate insistence on change and justice. This country still has a serious problem with racism. Let’s stop pretending this isn’t case or that it is all somehow healing itself. The second murder of Trayvon Martin compels this conclusion.

Lawrence D. Bobo is the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences and Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

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Zimmerman’s ‘Not Guilty Verdict’ Unnecessarily Prompts Concerns For Violence

By Yohuru Williams, Ph.D.

The decision in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Florida teen Trayvon Martin has generated concerns about the potential for violence because the jury’s not guilty verdict. The discussion itself seems a bit odd when one considers the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the demonstrations that have accompanied the case from the very beginning. After the fatal shooting of Martin over a year ago for instance, rallies in his name were nonviolent, focusing attention instead on the problems of gun violence, racial prejudice, and the judicial process.

Largely driving these new fears is our nation’s troubling history over the last half-century with such events, including the violence that accompanied the acquittal of law enforcement officers accused in the beating of motorist Rodney King in Los Angles in 1992 and of Arthur McDuffie in Miami in 1980.

While a powerful symbol of the persistence of a particular type of de facto racial prejudice, Trayvon Martin is no Rodney King or Arthur McDuffie. For starters, the cases are very different. The King and Miami Overton riots both involved episodes of official misconduct by officers of the law.

Yohuru_WilliamsThe video of Los Angeles police officers repeatedly pummeling the body of Rodney King presented for most incontrovertible evidence that the force used was excessive. The subsequent acquittal of the officers involved in the beating by an all-white jury, made possible by a change of venue, cemented the strong feeling of racial prejudice.

The Miami riot likewise originated in an obvious case of police brutality resulting in the death of McDuffie, a Vietnam War veteran and insurance salesperson savagely beaten to death after surrendering to police after a high-speed chase.  In spite of overwhelming the-hartford-guardian-Opinionevidence of police misconduct and the damning testimony of one of the police officers involved, an all-white and male jury nevertheless acquitted the officers, contributing to the eruption of violence that resulted in the loss of 18 lives and approximately 100 million in property damage and other losses.

Moreover, while incidents of police brutality were the triggers, both riots spoke to deep structural inequalities from staggering unemployment and inadequate housing, to poor educational opportunities and limited access to city services, which ignited pent-up frustrations percolating just beneath the surface.

These issues appear only tangential to the Martin case, notably heard by an all-female and nominally diverse (five white and one Hispanic) jury. Sanford likewise is not Los Angles, nor Miami, for that matter. The gated community in which the shooting took place is supposedly occupied and shielded from the problems of the urban poor shouldered with the responsibility for the LA and Miami riots.

Furthermore, in spite of all that has been made of George Zimmerman’s position as a “neighborhood watch” captain, he was not acting in any official capacity or under anyone’s authority except his own. In fact, one could argue that the evidence in this case illustrates the Sanford police acting with appropriate caution including advising Zimmerman on the evening of the shooting not to follow Martin.

It was George Zimmerman alone who ignored this advice and charged into the darkness as prosecutor suggested in his closing argument armed with “the great equalizer” his pistol.

For all the intrigue surrounding it, the trial itself has also been straightforward, including efforts by the defense to shift the blame for the shooting on Martin, who we now know was packing little more than a packet of candy and a soft drink.  Nevertheless based on the law at least, the case was not difficult to decide. If history offers any insight, the jurors were very well not overly concerned with what may happen outside of court because of their deliberations.  As most juries, they most likely decided the case based on their understanding of the law, which in this case favored Zimmerman and  resulted in acquittal.

Even in that case, Trayvon Martin will remain a powerful symbol of the inherent dangers posed by our inability to talk about and deal with the issue of race. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder memorably referred to Americans as a nation of cowards for our unwillingness to earnestly dialogue about issues of race. That much is clear, and is often commented on.  What is less discussed is something else raised by this fear of imminent Black violence — Americans’ deadly infatuation with guns and the largely illusory fears about security that drive their purchase and use. What can be worse than cowards who hide behind guns? It was up to the jury to decide George Zimmerman’s fate, but to all us to decide how we rebuild from this tragic incident in the hopes of conquering the fears that drive some to fetishize guns as the best solution to combating the dangers they see in the hoodies of young black teenagers rather than the shadows of prejudice.

If the message  is for residents to remain peaceful and nonviolent, let us hope that it also registers with those who cling to the notion that access to firearms, rather than dealing openly and honestly with our fears and prejudices, is the best protection for us all.

Yohuru Williams is Chair and Professor of History and Director of Black Studies at Fairfield University. Follow him on Twitter@YohuruWilliams.

 Photo: www.wdbj7.com



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What If Trayvon Was Standing His Ground?

By Genetta M. Adams, The Root

Why are investigators ignoring Trayvon Martin’s side of the story?

Martin was the 17-year-old black teen who was shot and killed on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando, Fla. Zimmerman, who is a white Hispanic, claims the shooting was self-defense; three weeks later, he hasn’t been arrested or charged with any crime.

The case was already gaining national attention, but interest exploded following the release of the911 tapes on March 16. Terrified neighbors called in reports of someone screaming for help and gunshots. In one of the tapes, bloodcurdling screams can be heard in the background followed by what sounds like a gunshot. Lawyers for Martin’s family say the screams are Martin’s and that the tapes are evidence of a “murder.” They say Zimmerman should be arrested immediately and are calling on the FBI to begin an investigation. The Rev. Al Sharpton plans to visit the grief-stricken family this week.

At the heart of this case is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Passed in 2005, the law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves if they believe they’re in imminent danger. When Zimmerman told police it was self-defense, that was good enough for them. But what if Martin were trying to stand his ground against a threatening stranger? Why did police automatically assume that Martin was the aggressor?

Here’s what we know: On Feb. 26, Martin was watching the NBA All-Star game while he and his father were visiting his father’s fiancée, who lived in a gated townhouse community. During halftime, Martin went to a 7-Eleven to buy snacks. While walking back, Martin caught the attention of Zimmerman, who was in an SUV. From the 911 tapes, we learn that Zimmerman called to report “a really suspicious guy” who looked like “he was up to no good.” What exactly was this really suspicious guy doing? “… He’s just walking around looking about.”

We also learn from the tapes that Zimmerman followed Martin even though the dispatcher told him not to.

911 dispatcher: Are you following him?
Zimmerman: Yeah.
911 dispatcher: OK, we don’t need you to do that.

Moments later, Zimmerman told police, he got out his car and he and Martin fought before he shot the teen once in the chest. When he was killed, Martin had $22, Skittles and a can of iced tea in his pockets. Zimmerman, 28, carried a concealed weapon permit and a 9mm handgun. Who was in the most imminent danger here?

Imagine this story from Martin’s point of view. What if he were afraid of this man who had been following him? What if he were trying to defend himself from this person who had confronted him? Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr., who investigated the case, told the Orlando Sentinel this wasn’t about race, but what if the situation were reversed — if Martin had shot and killed Zimmerman? Would Martin have been able to claim self-defense? Would he be walking around free?

In that Orlando Sentinel interview, Lee expressed his frustration that the case has gained so much attention.

“The hysteria, the media circus, it’s just crazy,” he said. “It’s the craziest damn thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s sad. It’s sad for the city of Sanford, the police department, because I know in my heart we did a good job.”

Sad for the city of Sanford? The police department? What about the Martin family? The fact that Lee doesn’t even consider their pain, their sadness, tells you all you need to know about how he feels.

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow details how Martin’s parents found out about their son. His unidentified body was brought to the medical examiner’s office and tagged as a John Doe. In the eyes of the system, Martin was just another dead black teenager.

The Stand Your Ground law says that potential crime victims have the right to stick up for themselves. Who is going to stick up for Trayvon Martin?

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