What happened to Trayvon Martin? 10 years after George Zimmerman killed the teenager, the story resonates

NEW YORK – Trayvon Martin’s last night begins with a convenience store, a quick trip to candy and drinks. It ended in a confrontation with a volunteer guarding the neighborhood, one shot was fired, a 17-year-old man died in the street.

It might end there – the violent deaths of Black teenagers rarely attract even fleeting attention.

But the unarmed, hoodie-clad, baby-faced youth at the hands of a stranger still resonates 10 years later – out of protest, out of partisanship, out of racism. and react, for social justice and social media.

“It’s what breaks everyone at once,” said Nailah Summers-Polite, co-director of Dream Defenders, an organization set up in Florida during the protest after Martin’s death.

“We’re the Trayvon Martin generation, we’re the ones who started to act on it.”

The incident happened on February 26, 2012. Martin was visiting his father in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, a suburb of Orlando. On his way back from the store, he was spotted by George Zimmerman, then 28, a member of the community’s neighborhood police team.

Initial police reports said Zimmerman called authorities to report a suspect, someone who, according to him, “didn’t appear to be fine.” When Zimmerman said he was spying on the man, a dispatcher said, “We don’t need you to do that.” But armed with a gun, Zimmerman got out of his car.

In the ensuing confrontation, Zimmerman would report to authorities that Martin attacked him, forcing him to use a gun to save himself. Zimmerman is allowed his freedom.

From the start, Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were outraged. They questioned Zimmerman’s account. Was their son considered “suspicious” just because he was Black? Zimmerman’s family is adamant that their son and brother, who identified as Hispanic, are not racist.

As media attention increased in early March, others joined, first locally and then further afield.

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For many Blacks, the idea that Trayvon was vandalized because of his race took a heavy toll, echoing their own experiences in all walks of life. In his death, they saw their own wounds.

“It feels like, Oh, oh, I can’t even walk down the street, even in my day-to-day life, the usual happenings, which could easily be me,” said Jonel Edwards, a co-director Another of Dream Defenders said .

It was especially jarring in 2012, when the occupant of the White House was Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president. His election led some to assert that America had turned a real corner in its troubled race story; even many skeptics think there has been progress.

However, Martin is dead. The United States “elected a Black president and there’s a Black attorney general, and they’re still killing us and not even catching the killer… we’ve all seen our kids. remains vulnerable,” said Father Al Sharpton, who first met Martin’s family and their attorney Ben Crump as they worked to bring more attention to his death.

For years, police killings of Black people – such as Amadou Diallo in 1999, Sean Bell in 2006 and Ramarley Graham, just weeks before Martin’s death – caused outrage. But Zimmerman is “not a law enforcement person,” says Jenner Furst, co-director of the documentary “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story.”

“This person has no badge,” he said. “This person has no training in how to operate a firearm in an emergency and no training in conflict management, with no skills in identifying who is and who is not a risk.”

“I don’t think that being a cop really makes it all the more serious,” Sharpton said, so authorities didn’t act. “This is a security guard who wants to be… There’s no reason to be reluctant here.”

As news of Martin’s death spread, many who wanted to speak out turned to the digital space. Social media has shown its potential as a platform for protest, and now the trend has become super-evolving.

Kevin Cunningham, then 31, a Howard University law school graduate who was working as a social media consultant for an Islamic organization, has been intrigued by the power of social media ever since he saw the role. its role in the 2011 Egyptian revolution. He posted a petition on calling for Zimmerman’s prosecution, and it soon got about 10,000 signatures.

That number grew exponentially when he referred the petition to Martin’s parents, who made a personal appeal in favor of the prosecution of Zimmerman. Social media celebrities encouraged people to sign. In the end, more than 2.2 million people signed the petition.

“It’s the right place and time until social media adoption and the right kind of serious case can touch people’s hearts,” Cunningham said.

While Zimmerman set up a website to seek donations to help with his defense, many detractors online. Social media has gathered numerous protests like the Million Hoodie March, as well as countless celebrities and everyday folk who have posted pictures of themselves wearing hoodies with the hashtag, “I’m Trayvon Martin.”

Among them: LeBron James, then playing for the Miami Heat, who posted pictures of him and his teammates wearing hoodies, heads bowed.

Obama himself was drawn into the debate, framing it to terms no other president could.

“I can only imagine what these parents must be going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my kids,” Obama said.

“If I had a son, he would be like Trayvon.”

Six weeks after the shooting, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder; he will be acquitted next year. But the fermentation from Trayvon Martin’s death has not stopped.

The ruling inspired a Facebook post written by Alicia Garza, a hashtag created by Patrisse Cullors, and a social media strategy led by Ayo Tometi – and as a result Black Lives Matter, an anti-government movement. racism and racial violence against Black communities.

And many of the protesters fueled by Martin’s murder took to the streets to protest the death of 18-year-old and unarmed Michael Brown, killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 2014, just weeks after Eric Garner, also unarmed, was killed by police in New York City.

Edwards, of Dream Defenders, said: “Trayvon Martin’s moment really opened our eyes, and added that ‘there was a lot of common sense that started in 2012 and then flared up in 2014’.

Later 2020 death of George Floydwas killed by the Minneapolis police, unleashing a mass of people across the country and the world.

“When the George Floyd tragedy happened, we all saw how Trayvon played out,” said film director Furst. “And a lot of people have said, never again, this can’t happen that way again.”

But public anger also produced a response. There are those who have dismissed Obama’s friendly words to Martin, and see the protests as chaos and disorder against the police.

Others acknowledged that Martin’s death and its aftermath changed the country, but questioned whether that change qualifies from afar.

Sharpton, while frustrated that not much federal law was in place, said a “cultural shift” had occurred.

He pointed to the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black man who was chased and killed by three white men in 2020 when he saw him running in their Georgia neighborhood. The shooter in that case also claimed to be in self-defense, but an almost entirely white jury found them all guilty.

“I think Trayvon changed the culture where people started to see things a little differently, and nothing for me personifies that more than Arbery,” says Sharpton. “These two young men, I think, are the two pillars where we are racing.”

Copyright © 2022 of the Associated Press. Copyright Registered. What happened to Trayvon Martin? 10 years after George Zimmerman killed the teenager, the story resonates

Dais Johnston

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