Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American, was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, as he walked through a gated community in Sanford, Fla., two months earlier. The killing and refusal of the cops to do anything about it sparked weeks of protests around the country that led to the arrest and indictment of Zimmerman.
“One of the things that keeps us going is the support we get from people we don’t even know,” said Tracy Martin. “On February 26 the police department had no regard for my son’s life. I made a vow that I will not let his death be in vain.”
The meeting was sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Major speakers included Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous along with other politicians and ministers.
Sharpton said the foundation will also help advance the fight against so-called Stand Your Ground laws around the country. Florida was the first of 25 states that in recent years have passed some version of this legislation. The Florida law encourages vigilantism, sanctioning the use of deadly force in public in order “to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony,” even if there is a clear option to simply walk away.
“This killing of our youth has to stop,” Bill Tatum told the Militant, carrying a handmade poster that read, “Stop the killing of Black youth.”
Family members of young people who have been killed by California cops were introduced at the rally and told their stories, receiving standing ovations and sustained applause.
Among those assembled on the crowded stage were the parents of Oscar Grant, an African-American man who was shot in the back as he lay handcuffed on the ground by police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland in 2009, sparking widespread protests.
Also speaking were members of the family of Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old African-American who was shot and killed by the Pasadena police March 24 after a 911 caller said that two men had robbed him at gunpoint. The caller lied about guns being present. One cop fired on McDade from his police car and another while pursing him on foot, according to the Huffington Post. No gun or stolen property was found on McDade’s body or on the other youth, also African-American, who was arrested and remains in jail.
“A few weeks ago I was scared of the police like many of you,” Kendrec’s father Kenneth McDade said, “but they took something from me that made me want answers. I am not afraid anymore.”
Nationwide actions spark fights“Trayvon’s Case Spurs Other Investigations Around the Country,” reads a headline from the Miami Herald posted on the foundation’s website.
“I signed Trayvon’s petition, sat back, and thought, ‘Well, maybe I should do a petition,’” Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. told the Herald. His father Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, had been fired upon by Tasers, shot with a beanbag shotgun and killed with a live round by cops in White Plains, N.Y., in November. The entire episode was recorded by medics on the site, taping the cops shouting racial epithets.
Chamberlain decided to start a campaign to hold the cops accountable for killing his father. Finally, in April the Westchester County District Attorney convened a grand jury to investigate the killing.
On April 28 Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton came to New York to appear at a fundraiser for at-risk youth at the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture in Harlem. Shirley Williams, mother of Malik Williams, killed by cops in December in Garfield, N.J., heard about their appearance an hour before the meeting. She and a friend jumped in a car and drove to Harlem.
While waiting to meet with Fulton, she met family members of other victims of police and vigilante murder, including the mother of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old Black youth who was killed by New York cops in 2006 on the eve of his wedding. She also spoke with a cousin of Emmett Till, the Black teenager from Chicago whose 1955 lynching while visiting relatives in Mississippi sparked nationwide attention.
Williams was able to meet with Fulton, exchanging experiences and encouragement to keep on fighting.
Williams told the Bergen County Record that she now hopes to organize a Mother’s Day meeting of mothers of youth killed by the cops to help gain publicity and press for indictments.
John Studer from New York contributed to this article.
March in New Orleans protests killings by cops
Australia rally slams cop shooting of Aboriginal youth
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