Stepping up for Justice
As a result of the murder of Trayvon Martin, Bloomsburg Students gathered together at 6 p.m. March 26 in front of Carver Hall to show tribute to his life and motivate officials to arrest the man who shot him.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Sanford, Fla. resident who was shot on his way to his father’s fiance’s house on a trip back from a convenience store on Feb 26. His shooter, George Zimmerman, was a neighborhood watch volunteer who deemed Trayvon as suspicious in a 911-dispatch call. He told the 911 dispatcher that he was following the boy, to which the dispatcher responded,”You don’t need to do that”. There is ongoing controversy over whether a racial slur can be heard in the phone call, because it could bring the crime to federal levels. According to CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, “Two people fighting on the street is not a federal crime. However, if one person shoots another based on racial hostility, racial animus, that does become a federal crime.”
Neighbors heard an altercation and called 911. There were reports of hearing calls for help, though it’s unclear whom from, and also of cries and whimpering before a gunshot. Witnesses said they heard someone cry out in distress, some of them telling news organizations that it was Martin. But police sources told the Sentinel their evidence indicated it was Zimmerman. Police found Trayvon face down, unarmed, carrying only a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea. Zimmerman was found with bleeding injuries to the nose and back of the head, and his back was wet and covered in grass.
Police then questioned Zimmerman on the preceding events, in which Zimmerman reports being knocked down by one punch, and then having his head repeatedly slammed into the sidewalk. He also states that Trayvon tried to take his gun. Witnesses have agreed to this account, but may have been one of the witness reports that needed corrections. Police could not make an arrest because of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.
This law was passed in 2005, and states that people may use deadly force away from the home when they feel they are in danger. Furthermore, it states that victims do not need to attempt retreat from a force first, but may face it head on with deadly force. This has caused the average of justifiable homicides to increase, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. However, people may not use the self-defense plea if they provoke confrontation first. Because the incidents leading up to the shooting are unclear, this remains a key part of the debate on whether Zimmerman should be held accountable for the murder or not.
Trayvon’s 17-year-old girlfriend, who wishes to remain unidentified, has reported being on the phone with Trayvon until the altercation occurred. Trayvon told the girl he was being followed, and was trying to get away. She was still on the phone when she heard someone ask Trayvon what he was doing, and Trayvon’s reply asking why he was being followed. She then believes there was an altercation in which the ear piece fell out and the phone call lost it’s connection. Phone records show Trayvon was on the phone with this girl for much of the day, including around the time of the murder. The Martin family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, states the girl’s testimony “completely blows Zimmerman’s absurd self-defense claim out of the water” and argues the probability of Trayvon being on the phone with a friend when supposedly up to no good.
With all of the controversy, protests have popped up all over America. On March 23, there were roughly 50 schools reported having walkouts. Trayvon’s mother asked students to focus on petitioning, praying, and rallying instead. Rallies have been occurring across the nation to motivate officials to investigate intensely until they can make an arrest, much like the one here on campus.
On Monday there were rallies in Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Houston; Atlanta; Indianapolis; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Detroit; Memphis, Iowa City, and in Sanford, where Rev. Al Sharpton presented a petition that he said had been signed by two million people calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. As of Tuesday evening, more than 638,000 people had signed the petition at Change.org., Thursday morning, the petition was getting 1,000 signatures per minute. A more violent form of protest comes from the leader of the New Black Panthers, Mikhail Muhammad, offering a bounty of 10,000-dollar reward for the capture of Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s father revealed that Zimmerman has left the area due to death threats.
The U.S. Justice Department is involved with investigating, and rumors of FBI investigation into the cases are surfacing, as many are dissatisfied with how the case has been handled so far. Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced Thursday he is stepping down “temporarily” as head of the department, angering many. Investigations are still being continued to uncover the truth of what happened that day. Meanwhile, a large portion of the nation sits at the edge of their seats awaiting the incoming news