By Monica Moorehead
April 10 was declared “National Hoodie Day” and “An International Day for Justice” in honor of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American who was lynched by a vigilante’s bullet in Sanford, Fla.
Thousands of people were expected to protest around the country on what marked the 44th day since George Zimmerman shot to death the unarmed Martin as he was coming home from a store. Zimmerman tried to justify the killing by claiming that Martin looked “suspicious” because he was wearing a hoodie.
The police said they decided not to arrest Zimmerman because he was protected by the “Stand Your Ground” law — a Florida law that upholds an act of self-defense as justification for maiming or even killing the so-called perpetrator without facing prosecution. The Sanford police have a notorious reputation for not arresting anyone accused of assaulting Black men.
On April 9, special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that a grand jury would not be convened to hear testimony on whether Zimmerman should be charged with killing Martin. She added that the investigation would continue. Whether or not Zimmerman will be charged with the killing of Martin is a source of both confusion and anger for the masses, who want to see justice served for Martin and his family.
The main question being asked is why it is taking so long for the Florida authorities to make a decision when all the evidence points to the fact that Martin died solely for “walking while Black” in a gated neighborhood. Some in the media are saying that even if Zimmerman is arrested, he will most likely not be charged with first-degree murder but with manslaughter. Only time will tell.
Resistance, voices of outrage grow
On the same day that Corey made her announcement, six young students — Black, Latino/a and white — locked arms and sat down in front of the Sanford Police Department headquarters, blocking the front entrance. These youth and their supporters sang traditional Civil Rights songs, updating the words to apply to justice for Trayvon. Their actions forced the police to shut down the station for several hours.
On the weekend of April 7-8, 40 college students marched from Daytona Beach to Sanford in support of Martin. Across the country on April 8, motorcyclists of all nationalities, genders and gender expressions mobilized for Trayvon Martin by driving in processions while wearing hoodies. Black motorcycle riders rode together in Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte, N.C., to demand justice for Trayvon. Recently in Anchorage, Alaska, the NAACP organized a rally for him during a snowstorm.
More than 300 protesters, mostly African Americans, marched to Dudley Square in Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston, on April 6 to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. There were many youth as well as leaders from the most independent, activist ranks of the community. Speakers at the rally were Tony Van Der Meer, Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee founder and professor of Africana Studies at UMass, Boston; Bishop Filipe Teixeira Ofsjc, an immigrant rights leader from Brockton, Mass.; Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey; and Corey Yarborough, executive director of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition of Boston.
The Rev. Cortly “C. D.” Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore Southern Christian Leadership Conference and an organizer of the March 26 Baltimore protest of 10,000 for Trayvon Martin, proclaimed, “Thousands of people came out in the streets of Baltimore to express their outrage and anger. We are turning our attention to organizing our next steps. We, along with the Occupy 4 Jobs Network and the All Peoples Congress, have formed an umbrella committee, Justice 4 Trayvon Martin, Maryland LOC, which is calling for an emergency response if special prosecutor Angela Corey does not indict Zimmerman. If this happens, we have called on people to join us downtown, where we intend, by our sheer numbers and our dedication, to shut business as usual. We occupied City Hall and stopped the evening hearings on March 26; we can occupy Baltimore City’s downtown.”
Sharon Black, Baltimore All Peoples Congress organizer and representative of the local Occupy 4 Jobs, stated, “We have been inspired by the Dream Defenders and are planning a Trayvon Martin march to Washington, D.C., walking 41 miles to the Justice Department to join the Occupy and Mumia movement on April 24.”
The legendary retired basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson said on CNN on April 10 that many players in the National Basketball Association can relate to the Trayvon Martin case because they come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Johnson also called for the arrest of Zimmerman.
Demonstrations along with teach-ins, prayer vigils and civil disobedience have mushroomed around the country for the past three weeks once this case gained national attention on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Million Hoodie Marches took place during the latter part of March in dozens of cities. International demonstrations have taken place in London, Paris, Australia, India and elsewhere.
Racist backlash & capitalism
The fact that the police have allowed Zimmerman to remain free has not only evoked an anti-racist response of outrage but has also emboldened racist reaction. The senseless murder of Trayvon Martin has helped to rip off the facade of a “post-racial” society that many believed the election of U.S. President Barack Obama signaled. Even Obama, who carries out the interests of Wall Street and the Pentagon, has received death threats from the ultra-racist right-wing since he has been in office. As the global capitalist economic crisis accelerates, notwithstanding some temporary ebbs and flows, so does racist repression.
Racist graffiti praising Zimmerman’s actions was spray painted on a wall of the Ohio State University building where the Black Student Union has its office. A racial slur against Martin was seen on a neon sign off a major interstate near Dearborn, Mich. When five graffiti artists created a mural in tribute to Martin in Elmswood Park, N.J., local officials forced them to remove it, claiming that the mural “promoted a gang mentality.”
An eighth-grade teacher of color, Brooke Harris, was fired at a non-unionized charter school last month in Pontiac, Mich., for promoting a fundraiser for Martin’s family, which grew out of classroom discussions with her students about the killing. Harris, a two-time Teacher of the Year recipient, stated that many of her students, a majority of whom are African-American, expressed that what happened to Trayvon could also happen to them. Her class was also planning to organize a “wear-a-hoodie day” in memory of Trayvon. The school administration charged that Harris’ actions were a “distraction” from the students’ academic studies. A petition demanding her reinstatement can be found at change.org.
The police killing of African-American U.S. Marine veteran Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. in White Plains, N.Y., this past Nov. 19; the random shootings of five Black people, resulting in three deaths, in Tulsa, Okla., by neo-Nazis on April 7; the police killing of Michael Lembhard in Newburgh, N.Y., on March 7; and now the Trayvon Martin killing are just recent examples of how Black lives in the capitalist U.S. are viewed as expendable, like trash. Both Chamberlain and Lembhard were shot multiple times by the police in their homes. In both instances, there were no arrests.
Vigilantes like Zimmerman and the Tulsa neo-Nazis are given the green light to carry out their extra-legal murderous assaults. Neo-Nazis were reported by ABC News to be roaming the streets of Sanford, threatening the Black community. The police as a deadly force are given carte blanche by pro-rich laws to unleash their legal terror on the masses, especially if they are Black and Brown. It is just a matter of time before the frustrated masses decide there is no other recourse but to rebel, when justice is denied them by the courts and the police.
No matter how the Trayvon Martin case or the other individual cases of heinous injustice play out, the masses are more and more waking up to the fact that this capitalist system not only denies them any real justice, but also cannot provide them quality jobs, education and other human needs. The killing of Trayvon Martin has helped to kick the door wide open for a burgeoning new movement. The key is to keep this door permanently open until a new society, based on providing equality and opportunities for all, arises out of the ashes of this rotten, capitalist system that relies on the doctrine of white supremacy and protecting the private property of the 1%.