Much has been made of the Florida Law called “Stand Your Ground.” News commentators, legal experts, civil rights activists have all pointed to how difficult it is to get someone arrested and convicted for murder or some lesser criminal charge involving the death of another person be it with a firearm or not as long as the person doing the killing reasonably believed in their own mind that it was and is self-defense.
What struck the editorial staff of Struggles for Justice so forcefully today was no one has even raised the idea that Trayvon Martin had a right at some point to more than flee a big hulking man with a gun he did not know and who was not uniformed as a police officer nor did he identify himself as a police officer, and in the last extremity, as the 911 tapes show conclusively he was yelling and screaming for help, to make some desperate move to struggle free from the grasp of George Zimmerman and apparently punch him in the nose or take a swing at him.
It seems that every citizen of Florida and the United States has the right to resist someone who is armed and obviously dangerous when they do not appear to be, and as it turns out, were not a law enforcement officer no matter how much George Zimmerman wants to be one. It does not matter here if at that last extremity, Mr. Zimmerman had a fraction of a second when he realized that the kid might get away or continue to resist risking his safety and life. Zimmerman we now know beyond doubt—he himself admits it right on his cell phone 911 tape, that he was pursuing and hunting down Trayvon Martin. Martin was merely fleeing him.
Trayvon Martin made it to within seventy feet of his home before being gunned down. He first walked faster when he realized this man was following him. He had every right to be concerned that he meant to do him harm. He had no reason to think it was anything he had done wrong since he had not done anything wrong. What would you do? Well, if you’re seventeen and play football and your girlfriend is on the other end of the line of your cell phone as has now been shown, and you tell her a man is following you that way and she tells you to run you probably would not resist the suggestion for long.
Martin’s only mistake may have been believing he could hide behind one of the condominiums in fear and the horrible man he was frightened of would walk on by and leave him alone—give him some chance to get home to his Dad and an NBA All Star-Basketball Game they were watching until halftime and planned to watch the second half. It led Trayvon to go to a nearby convenience store and get a pack of Skittles candy and what we now know was an iced tea. Seventy-feet to safety. Trayvon, who wore the number 9 on his Freshman football jersey must have been a cornerback, quarterback, or running back for his team. I bet he could have thrown a football that distance with ease if not full accuracy. He was that close to saving his life. Martin was observed by Zimmerman to have taken off running. Zimmerman pursued at whatever was full speed for him. Martin apparently must have made a football player’s cut right in between two homes and into the back yard where he hoped to elude Zimmerman.
One caller on 911 as the struggle went on said two men were engaged in a struggle right in his backyard. He watched. He heard the gunshot. He saw Trayvon Martin fall dead and shouted out in horror. We believe that Trayvon Martin had just as much of a legal right to stand his ground at the last extremity and armed with a bag of skittles candy and so bravely try to get away or emerge with his life. He failed. But that’s not his fault.
What would we say if a rapist had run a woman down in some urban area and caught her by the neck or arm and proceeded to begin assaulting her? Would we just let the man go and with his gun and permit to keep and use it? Wouldn’t someone be proud of the woman for bravely resisting the man; she unarmed and he with a handgun that was fully loaded? Wouldn’t the entire world think that such a police department as would release George Zimmerman, taking his word it was self-defense, and not even holding him for a number of hours to satisfy themselves there was no other explanation were themselves criminal imbeciles or worse?
This is not just an outrage—it is obscene!
When we have three close neighbors come forward and say that it was the kid calling and begging and screaming for his very life, unarmed, facing a man ten years older, and well over a hundred pounds heavier with a 9mm automatic pistol and the police let him go and keep the gun it is the very thing that tests our ability to remain committed to peaceful, non-violent protest for justice. We will maintain that commitment. But we will win justice for Trayvon Martin and his family.
The arrest of George Zimmerman to stand trial for at least criminal negligence all the way up to potential murder is actually now a safety issue for that neighborhood. There are other black families living there—they have kids like the 13-year-old traumatized black kid who heard but did not see the killing from just the other side of a house when he had the family dog out for a brief walk.
George Zimmerman has not yet been convicted of this crime. He may never be after his day in court with the best possible criminal defense lawyers if he wishes them as is his right. But to allow him to remain at large—fully free, and able to gun down anyone he pleases—especially some other poor kid who is black and he decides is suspicious is the ultimate civil rights obscenity of the 21st Century thus far.
No parent should permit their children to go out unescorted by them and armed until this man is brought to justice. They should demand constant 24-hour police protection for that neighborhood: not just cruise by patrols but a couple of squads assigned around the clock and with foot patrols until this man takes some sort of responsibility for what he did to a 17-year-old boy who had done nothing wrong. Parents cringe all over the nation tonight and every night until justice is done.
That means a real trial with a vigorous and full investigation and a vigorous prosecution at whatever level the local DA has any chance to make. Damn these Sanford Police officers and a chief who don’t know how to do the right thing. And protect the officers who know and want to but are unable to. Let us keep our cool and keep on keeping on until the Martin family clears their son’s good name and makes the man who took him away from them face trial and justice.