Thousands Protest Verdict in Trayvon Martin Killing

Amien Essif

George Zimmerman, who was on trial for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was acquitted on Saturday of any charges—a verdict that brought thousands of people into the street in protest Saturday evening. In February 2012, Zimmerman called police to report a “suspicious” young black man in his gated community in Florida. Against the advice of the police, Zimmerman pursued Martin and ultimately shot him in the heart with a handgun. Though prosecutors argued that Zimmerman’s act was racially motivated, the jury found him not guilty of the charge of second degree (non-premeditated) murder. Florida’s self-defense laws put the burden on the state to disprove a claim of self-defense, even if the defendant initiated the conflict, as Zimmerman did. The evidence in the Martin case being as hazy as it was, the acquittal came as little surprise to legal commentators. Scott Lemieux of The American Prospect, a law professor, noted the fundamental absurdity of such laws: “In most cases someone with a gun should not be able to escape culpability if he initiates a conflict with someone unarmed and the other party ends up getting shot and killed.” Reuters reports that protestors across the country marched and rallied Sunday to express outrage at what they see as a failure of the justice system: While a jury of six women absolved Zimmerman of any crime with their not-guilty verdict, civil rights leaders decried the decision, and demonstrators took to the streets in New York, Boston, San Francisco and other cities. U.S. President Barack Obama called for a peaceful response to the case that has polarized the U.S. public over the past 16 months. In general, the demonstrations were peaceful, though the New York march became disorderly at times. … About 1,000 people sat in Times Square, drawing curious looks from the tourists who packed the so-called Crossroads of the World…. In Boston, about 500 racially mixed protesters left their demonstration site in the Roxbury neighborhood and started marching in the streets alongside police escorts on motorcycle and on foot…. Roughly 500 people rallied on the streets of San Francisco, some carrying yellow signs with Martin's photo. About a dozen police motorcycles and vans trailed the tidy group of marchers, who banged on drums as they walked and continuously chanted, "Justice for Trayvon Martin."  

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Amien Essif is a regular contributor to Working In These Times and maintains a blog called The Gazine, which focuses on consumerism, gentrification, and technology with a Luddite bent. His work has also appeared on the Guardian and CounterPunch. You can find him using Twitter reluctantly: @AmienChicago
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