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Zimmerman Charged: Second Degree Murder in Trayvon Martin case

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent- | Last updated: Apr 17, 2012 - 10:38:12 PM

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(L-R) Trayvon Martin, Trayvon’s parents, father Tracey Martin, left and mother Sybrina Fulton. Photo: AP Wide World Photos/Jacquelyn Martin, Accused killer George Zimmerman

(FinalCall.com) - Now that Trayvon Martin’s killer is in police custody on charges of second-degree murder, the movement of voices that rose up to fight for justice has vowed to keep applying pressure until George Zimmerman is ultimately convicted.

Second-degree murder charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Mr. Zimmerman’s attorney is expected to seek his release on bail during an April 20 hearing. Meanwhile, media reports indicate the rejected police wannabe is ready to apologize to Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s parents, for taking their son’s life, some 50 days after the shooting occurred.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey has said the charges filed April 11 stem from facts and case law, not public pressure. But activists are claiming a victory.

Arrest isn’t justice

"Our goal was never to attack or to persecute Zimmerman. Our goal was to seek justice. Even though we got the arrest, the wheels of justice are just now turning but there is still a problem at hand," said Abnar Marcelin, founder and president of the Official Justice for Trayvon Martin Coalition.

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East High School students during a protest in Denver, CO., April 10, 2012. Photo: AP Wide World Photos/The Denver Post, Craig F. Walker
Mr. Marcelin, a Florida State University graduate and law student, told The Final Call despite some pleasure over the progress, there is still a problem at hand. “It took them five days for them to make a move that should have happened on day one ...

Why did it take so long? Why did the police chief sign off on this investigation and why are investigators who botched the investigation still employed by the police?"

"We’ve lost faith in this justice system because they’ve shown us that it’s justice for some and not justice for all, and so now we’re demanding accountability and transparency throughout this entire proceeding,” Mr. Marcelin told The Final Call.

Some transparency came when Judge Jessica Recksiedler, who is hearing the case, revealed to attorneys that her husband is law partner with an attorney who has provided legal analysis on the matter for CNN.

Meanwhile, Martin supporters say accountability would in part mean a lengthy prison stay for Mr. Zimmerman and reformation of gun laws, police powers, and a criminal justice system that made it possible for an ordinary citizen to stalk and ultimately kill an unarmed teen under the veil of racial profiling in the first place, they argue.

Approximately 200 people demonstrated in downtown L.A.’s Pershing Square on April 9. It was their second Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin and was held to demand that Mr. Zimmerman be prosecuted. They had just learned that special prosecutor Cory would not take the case to the grand jury, which is required to file first degree murder charges.

The L.A. protest was one of many around the country.

In Los Angeles, 102.3 FM-KJLH Radio DJ Big Roc spun R&B songs from the 1960s Black Power Movement, including James Brown’s “The Big Payback,” Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” and the 1990s conscious Rap era with songs like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” Demonstrators, including celebrities and politicians, filled the square.

Obba Babatunde, a legendary entertainer, electrified the crowd but he wasn’t there to sing or dance, but spoke on the preservation of life and the mindsets of slavery and White supremacy. “That terminology, that mindset continues to prevail, that when you see young men and women who are taken off the planet, and we have to go through all that we have to go through to bring identification to the injustice. It’s insane! There’s no reason for that,” Mr. Babatunde said.

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Entertainer Obba Babatunde, third from left, participates in Million Hoodie March demonstration. Photo: Charlene Muhammad

“I am here today not as a representation of the entertainment industry. I am here as Obba Babatunde: a man, a father, someone who has children and who identifies that those children can face the same kind of subjugation that Trayvon and all the other names that we know have gone through,” he said.

Appeals to Justice Dept., calls for repeal of Florida law

Demonstrators signed “Justice for Trayvon” letters and after listening to a host of speakers, they held a silent march from the square to City Hall. Solomon Rivera, deputy chief of staff for Congresswoman Karen Bass, announced she would take letters to Attorney General Eric Holder until all of the correspondence was delivered.

The letter, dated April 9, asks Attorney General Holder to send the Community Relations Service to Sanford, Florida to address tension in the community and calls on the Department of Justice to investigate the Stand Your Ground Law and similar ones in 23 other states.

In the six years since Stand Your Ground was enacted, “Florida has averaged 33 justifiable homicides in a year (a 275% increase from the average of 12 justifiable homicides a year during the five years prior to the law’s enactment),” the letter reads.

“None of this would have happened to White kids and we know it ... The political environment that this so-called prosecutor’s in is against bringing justice. Nothing will happen to George Zimmerman unless we keep up the pressure,” said Greg Akili, a community organizer and regional director for the NAACP.

After the rally, protesters were led to City Hall by five youth, including a five-year-old named Justin. They carried a small, brown coffin with a photo of Trayvon Martin on it and the names of other victims of racial profiling written on the sides.

What happened to Trayvon Martin can never happen to one of our children again, said Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy, in a phone interview.

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Marchers carry coffi n during protest of killing of Trayvon Martin in Los Angeles. Photo: Charlene Muhammad
“In his (Mr. Zimmerman’s) background, he applied to become a police officer. In his mind he wanted to be one and he deployed strategies and tactics that he understood police officers to use: He put the gun in his back even though he knew community watch groups are prohibited from carrying guns,” Mr. Shelton said.

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll is heading a task force to review the controversial law, which Mr. Shelton and a host of others insist needs fixing.

“We’ve got to speak out against it. Say that it is wrong, and that it has no place in 21st century America, and the Stand Your Ground kill at will gun laws which have popped up need to be repealed,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.

“Without the voices of civil rights leadership and the masses across the nation pointing out the injustice that was about to occur, the incident would have been swept under the rug. The goal now is to monitor the proceedings,” Mr. Morial told The Final Call.

Racial profiling remains problem

Mr. Babatunde recalled not long ago when he and friends, also actors, were racially profiled. He, Wren Brown, Skeeter Ellis, and Samuel L. Jackson went to dinner in Santa Monica, Calif., after a performance. “We were standing there, saying our goodnights and before we knew it we were looking down the barrel of nine millimeters, held by police officers, asking us what we were doing,” he said.

The cops claimed someone reported seeing four men brandishing bats on the corner, he said, adding police forced them to put their hands on the top of police cars and sit on the ground at gunpoint.

Not until Mr. Brown said his wife worked for the law office of Johnny Cochran and he wanted to face his accuser did the harassment stop.

“Here’s the irony of it. Just across the street from us, where we were being apprehended in this fashion, Samuel L. Jackson had a big poster up on one of his movies that was coming out. You see, we’re not exempt because they didn’t see celebrity. They saw Black skin ... My celebrity does not make me exempt to this kind of racial profiling,’ Mr. Babatunde told The Final Call.

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Demonstrators want George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, 17, locked up. It took authorities weeks to decide to file second-degree murder charges in the case. Photo: Charlene Muhammad
Dr. Ava Muhammad, national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, said the Stand Your Ground law isn’t only a defense to the charge, it is immunity. “That’s very, very serious. To be made immune to prosecution means exactly that. It’s like your body being immune to a specific disease. It’s untouchable,” Dr. Muhammad said, speaking as a defense attorney and former prosecutor. It gives Mr. Zimmerman an opportunity to walk free, and never go to trial, she said.

Some legal experts believe special prosecutor Cory fi led second-degree murder charges to allow Mr. Zimmerman’s defense to bargain down to manslaughter.

“The main thing for me is that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan warned us in 2007 in the ‘Justifiable Homicide’ series that White America would do exactly what it is doing right now, supporting the murder of Black people legally. It’s excusable. It’s justifiable, because Black men are by their mere existence a threat,” Atty. Muhammad said.

“This young man, Trayvon Martin, beautiful young man in the States, shot down by a community captain that followed him and said these a-holes. He’s telling you that he doesn’t like the person that he’s following. He shoots him. Now I talked to the mother, I talked to the father, I told them that this precious child is a nail in the coffin of White supremacy and his beauty, his peaceful demeanor, his sweetness has touched all of us who saw his face,” said Min. Farrakhan during a March 25 address in Trinidad.

Min. Farrakhan said in talking with the young man’s mother, he shared how scripture paints the picture of the crucifixion of Jesus for the redemption of others. “Some people die for the benefit of others … I said your child died that the sleeping masses who have been killing each other would rise up and say enough is enough. And today all over America now the people are rising,” Min. Farrakhan continued.

“I have a Twitter account and on my little tweet I said, ‘I am deeply hurt over the loss of this young man’s life but where there is no justice there will never be peace. So let us see if the government of the United States and the government of Florida will give this bereaved family and the bereaved community justice but if not soon and very soon we may call for the law of retaliation.’ …

“Well I would not like to call for that but when I finish my lecture today I want you to see Trinidad that you are in the path of extinction. They’re killing you as we speak and they’re killing our children,” he said.

“This story has really galvanized Black America,” said Marcella Washington, a political science professor in Jacksonville, Fla., and member of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. All eyes are on the state, but what people don’t understand is the semi-tropical paradise or Caribbean get-away is the South, she said. It’s as South, if not more South, than places like Mississippi and Alabama, added Ms. Washington.

Her gut feeling is if there’s a trial, Prosecutor Cory will move it to Jacksonville, which concerns the political scientist because there are many issues, including police brutality and a number of shootings there.

Sekou Franklin, associate professor of political science at Middle Tennessee State University, said the Zimmerman charge represents a kind of victory for grassroots mobilization because it was the main thing that mattered in shedding light on what was happening.

“Over the last 30-40 years, especially with the growth of Black elected officials, Blacks inside of almost every major political institution that we have, then much of the focus and energy is looked at as kind of the role of Black electoral leaders, Black elected officials, Black public officials and less attention to the role of civil disobedience and grassroots mobilization and their relevance,” he said.

For Malik Zulu Shabazz, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, there is no doubt that the masses of Black people rising up on behalf of justice for Trayvon, the marches, demonstrations, outcry, and the bounty and reward by the Panther Party contributed to Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest.

“The Sanford officials and justice system, as well as the Florida justice system, were going to leave Trayvon Martin’s murder unanswered and Zimmerman was certainly going to remain free with his erroneous self-defense claim until a movement erupted and an outcry erupted that put the world spotlight on Florida and I certainly believe touched the consciousness of the prosecutor in this case,” Mr. Shabazz said.

He feels that the New Black Panther Party’s reward put on Zimmerman’s head for a citizen’s arrest was the strongest stand taken during the process. “No doubt this strong stand encouraged the authorities to arrest and charge Zimmerman before somebody else did,” Mr. Shabazz said.

Prof. Franklin said there must be a broader linkage between Trayvon Martin and policies on state and local levels that put targets on the backs of Blacks and other marginalized people.

“Otherwise, you can arrest George Zimmerman. He can be convicted. Everybody will go home and five years later we’ll have another case just like this or we’ll have something that’s even more troubling,” said Professor Franklin.

Related news:

Blaming Trayvon? (FCN, 04-04-2012)

Trayvon Martin - The fight for justice continues (FCN, 03-28-2012)

Killing of Black teen, Trayvon Martin sparks outcry, national mobilization (FCN, 03-20-2012)

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