Angela Corey, the special state prosecutor assigned to the Martin case, announced April 9 that she had decided not to send the case to a grand jury, which had been tentatively set to convene the following day. Her decision rules out the possibility that Zimmerman will be charged with first-degree murder. It remains to be seen whether she will file murder or other charges.
Martin was walking to his father’s fiancée’s house where he was visiting Feb. 26 when Zimmerman started following him, telling a police dispatcher there was a “real suspicious guy” walking through the gated community. Martin tried to run away and Zimmerman followed him, according to what Zimmerman told 911.
It is unclear whether Martin tried to defend himself before he was gunned down. According to the police report, Martin, who was unarmed, punched Zimmerman and knocked him to the ground. Zimmerman claims he shot Martin in the chest in self-defense. He was taken to police headquarters, questioned and released without charges that same night.
Determined not to let the case be swept under the rug, Martin’s parents held a press conference following his funeral March 3 in Miami. Because of their insistence, the Sanford police were pressured to release recordings of 911 calls related to the case in mid-March, shedding more light on what actually happened and fueling outrage and protests across the country.
Militant correspondents visited working-class neighborhoods in this city of 53,000 just north of Orlando April 7.
The killing of Trayvon Martin “shook my foundation,” said Nancy McClure, who works as a building cleaner. “I hope the protests make a difference, and that the kid didn’t die in vain.” McClure is Caucasian and lives in a mixed neighborhood. “You know if the colors were switched it would be different,” and the killer would be arrested. She also described several run-ins she and her teenage son have had with the Sanford police.
“If I do anything they’ll lock me up,” Titus Manning told Militant correspondents outside a store a few blocks from the Sanford Police Department in the Black community of Goldsboro. “Zimmerman was supposed to go to jail and the judge decides whether there’s probable cause, not the police.”
Manning, who works constructing fountains, said three people were recently shot in the neighborhood and the police have done little to investigate.
“If you’re playing music too loud they’re right on you,” his friend Eugene Cain declared.
Zimmerman’s lawyers withdrew from his defense April 10, saying they had lost contact with him and he was acting on his own without their advice. The day before, he set up his own website called “The Real George Zimmerman.” It has a PayPal account for people to send him money.
On an Album page two pictures were posted, including one of graffiti scrawled on the side of the Frank W. Hale Black Cultural Center at Ohio State University saying, “Long live Zimmerman.” The graffiti was sprayed April 8, the day after students there held a rally in memory of Martin.
The photo was taken down April 10.
Several dozen students and other youth, calling themselves the Dream Defenders, marched three days from Daytona to Sanford April 6-8.
“This was the thing that triggered that I had to do something for justice,” Daniel Agnew, a 22-year-old cook in Charlotte, N.C., told the Militant at a church where the group stopped to rest after the second day of their walk. Other participants came from campuses across Florida, Morehouse College in Atlanta and elsewhere.
“We’re getting five or six thumbs up and honks of support for every negative reaction” walking down the highway said Terray Rollins, a student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee. He said students at his campus decided to contact others and initiate a march after seeing the protests in the news. They staged a sit-in in front of the Sanford police station the morning of April 9, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest and the firing of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, who temporarily stepped aside as the protests mounted.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, dozens of supporters of Police Chief Lee turned out for the Sanford City Commission meeting April 9. “During the public comment phase at the end of the meeting, about half of those who spoke voiced support for Lee, while others denounced him,” the paper reported.
The annual April 4 event in Miami marking the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. became a rally of 2,500 demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. “We’ll be marching for many years,” Ethel Bynes, a restaurant worker, told the Militant. “I thought there was justice, but I guess there’s not.” She came after hearing about the rally on a popular radio show.
“Trayvon used to spend the night at my house. My son is 17 and they were friends,” Krystal Cook said. Martin had lived in Miami Gardens with his mother.
Outside the International Longshoremen’s Association’s union hall in Fort Lauderdale April 9, several workers said they had taken part in protests against the lynching of Martin. Cedric Titus lives near Carol City High School in Miami Gardens, where hundreds of students walked out March 22. “I saw them on TV and went over and talked with them,” he said. “Those kids were awesome. I was upset more adults weren’t there to help them get more organized.”
Some 500 people marched here on April 4 to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. The protest, called by nearly a dozen churches and religious organizations in the area, was organized to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Following a march of more than a mile and a half, participants held a rally on the Bergen County Courthouse steps.
Raymere Grant, a senior at Lodi High School, came with two friends. “We’re here to respect Trayvon. George Zimmerman should go to jail,” he said, referring to the man who shot and killed Martin. “They try to blame Trayvon, saying he got suspended from school or was hitting Zimmerman. But I know at my school, kids get suspended all the time for nothing. And even if he did hit Zimmerman, that doesn’t give him the right to kill him.”
Frederick Peters has been a bus operator for New Jersey Transit for 19 years. He and his wife came to the protest. “There’s lots of discussion at work,” he said. “Things like this just can’t be allowed to happen. We want this guy prosecuted now. We have zero tolerance for this.”
Jeffrey Frierson marched together with his teenage son Brandon Izzo. “I came to support Trayvon’s family. I can’t even imagine if it was my son. We’ve got to make sure that justice is served,” Frierson said. “I can’t believe he shot a kid and he still hasn’t been arrested. It wouldn’t happen like this if the shooter was Black and the kid was white,” Izzo added.
Miguel Reyes and others involved in the fight against the killing of 19-year-old Malik Williams in December by cops in Garfield, carried a large banner in the demonstration. Police claim that Williams was hiding in a residential garage where he had armed himself with tools. “They shot him five times,” Reyes told the Militant. “The community is disgusted with how the police have treated this case.” Supporters have organized protests in Garfield, he said, with one taking place Sat., April 14 at 4 p.m.
Some 200 people marched from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle’s historic African-American Central District to downtown on April 7 for a rally to demand Justice for Trayvon Martin. The action was called by the Seattle and King County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Speakers included James Bible, president of the local NAACP, and Cedric President-Turner, who is Trayvon Martin’s cousin. Turner, 18, is a student at Henry Foss High School in Tacoma.
People shouldn’t have to die because of the color of their skin or because someone thinks they are “suspicious,” Turner told the crowd. “This could have been me. We have to stand up for justice if we are going to live free. I am going to keep on doing this.”
“There are moments in time that shock a nation’s consciousness,” stated Bible. “This is one of these moments. From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin with a lot of people in between we say we will not back down. Prepare to march all summer!”
As we go to press …
An initial victory—Special prosecutor Angela Corey bowed to pressure from weeks of popular mobilizations, charging George Zimmerman April 11 with second-degree murder. He is now in police custody. “We will march and march and march until the right thing is done,” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father.