Georgians Mobilize following Verdict in Shooting of Trayvon Martin
(APN) ATLANTA — Anger has led to mobilization, introspection, and a renewed interest in Stand Your Ground laws here in Georgia, following the July 13, 2013 verdict in the criminal trial of George Zimmerman, who is responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who had gone to the store for a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea.
Minutes after the verdict, both gunshots and fireworks were reported in at least one Atlanta neighborhood.
Since then, a tidal wave of over five thousand people have marched in Atlanta, twice in less than one week, in response to the acquittal of Zimmerman.
Rev. Al Sharpton organized the July 20, 2013 national day of “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and vigils outside federal buildings from Los Angeles, California, to Atlanta.
Atlanta’s July 20 rally was held at the Richard B. Russell federal building at 75 Spring Street in the soaking rain. Very few people left, even though many were wet and without a raincoat or umbrella. Those with umbrellas shared with others.
The rally was co-sponsored by the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Urban League of Greater Atlanta, National Action Network, Concerned Black Clergy, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, the Regional Council of Churches of Metro Atlanta, Georgia Coalition of Black Women, and many more as part of the Justice for Trayvon National Day of Action.
Across the country, millions of people, in total, marched in hundreds of US cities to express their outrage and heartbreak about the not guilty verdict; what some believe to be a broken justice system; and repressive laws that seem to unfairly target minorities. Martin has become an icon representing these issues.
Previously, on Monday, July 15, 2013, an “I Am Trayvon Martin” rally started at 150 James B. Brawley Drive and, five thousand strong, marched to the CNN Center at Centennial Park. This march was sponsored by Let Us Make Men, Davis Bozeman Law Community Affairs Division, and Sankofa United Church of Christ.
Many have expressed concern about the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida, which may have played a role in the killing of Martin and the criminal case that followed. Such laws exist in other US states, including Georgia.
“Georgia should keep its self-defense law like Florida’s that critics say emboldened George Zimmerman to confront Trayvon Martin,” Gov. Nathan Deal said as reported in Savannah Morning News newspaper.
Incidentally, State Senate Democratic Whip Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) introduced SB 147–which would require anyone with a gun to withdraw from a threat before using deadly force in Georgia–a week before Martin’s shooting last year.
Within days of Martin’s death, Fort became a steady voice in calling for changing Stand Your Ground, but his bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee chaired by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), according to the Savannah Morning News.
Sen. Fort has drafted legislation again to repeal the Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia.
An NAACP petition asking the US Department of Justice to pursue federal and civil rights charges against Zimmerman has in less than a week received over one million signatures.
“In these most challenging of times, we are called to act… We must make sure that George Zimmerman is held accountable for his actions. The jury’s decision must be respected and the rule of law upheld, but that does not mean the investigation should be considered complete. The trial judge’s decision to discount debate about race or racial profiling in the courtroom leaves open questions about Zimmerman’s motivation and intent,” Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP, said in a press release.
Before the trial and during the trial, some in Georgia have said negative things about Martin in an apparent attempt to smear Martin’s character.
For example, Zimmerman’s supporters have called Martin a thug and a punk, have said that he used drugs, was covered in tattoos and piercings, and posted on Facebook about guns.
Zimmerman, however, has a criminal record. In 2005, he was arrested for assaulting a police officer; the charge was later reduced to an resisting officer without violence, and then dropped after Zimmerman completed an alcohol education program, according to MSNBC, which reviewed court records.
Also in 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiance took out a restraining order against Zimmerman after alleging domestic assault.
Further, according to audio testimony of Witness No. 9, released by the State of Florida, the cousin of Zimmerman has claimed that he sexually molested her off and on from the time she was six until the time she was sixteen years old.
According to a former co-worker, Zimmerman also was fired from a security job at one point for being too aggressive and violent.
The Stand Your Ground law in one’s home may be appropriate, but to put that concept in the streets is a license to kill.
The National Rifle Association pushed Stand Your Ground (SYG) through Florida’s legislature in 2005. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adoped SYG as a model for other states and it is now the law in sixteen states including Georgia.
Other states may have adopted a stand your ground doctrine through judicial interpretation of their self-defense laws.
SYG was part of the jury instructions in Zimmerman’s criminal trial and it may also provide protection in civil lawsuits.
ALEC is responsible for other repressive laws in state legislatures across the US. As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, ALEC pushed the recent wave of anti-immigration laws and laws to warehouse inmates in for-profit prisons like those run by the Corrections Corporation of America, an ALEC member.
ALEC was also at the forefront of “three strikes” and “truth in sentencing” laws that have helped the US incarcerate more human beings than any other country in the world, with people of color making up sixty percent of those incarcerated, according to The Center for Media and Democracy.
ALEC also spread the myth of voter fraud and created and promoted the restrictive voter ID laws that made it harder for Blacks, students, elderly people, and others to vote.