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JUST LIKE IT IS: Murder Florida style


Peter Simmons

JUST LIKE IT IS: Murder Florida style

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World attention has focused with daily increasing intensity on the fatal shooting of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman, a white neighbourhood watch volunteer in Sanford, an Orlando, Florida suburb.
He was killed in a gated community less than 100 metres from his father’s home. In a loaded, incriminating call to the police base reporting Trayvon’s presence, Zimmerman was told not to pursue him and to remain in his vehicle.
He disobeyed, got into a scuffle and shot the young man with an unauthorized weapon. The excuse is that he was invoking the Florida law of standing your ground.
Trayvon, a victim of racial profiling, was wearing a hooded sweatshirt (“hoodie”) and carried a pack of Skittles and iced tea in his hand. His body remained unclaimed for three days when seconds before he was shot he was speaking with his girlfriend on his cellphone, recovered at the scene by incompetent police, but the call was not traced.
Zimmerman was arrested, taken to the police station and released without charge, claiming Trayvon had attacked him, broken his nose and banged his head on the curb repeatedly.
The media played a critical role in revealing key aspects of the tragedy, none moreso than TV footage of Zimmerman minutes after the shooting walking from the police car into the station. That icing on the cake derails the indefensible defence.
It is not known if there are police photographs of the alleged physical damage to his head and nose but close perusal of the footage by experts report no supporting evidence that he had been beaten so badly, he had to use his gun to save his life.
There has been a torrent of criticism of the recurrent ineptitude of the police, forcing the chief to step aside “temporarily”. Reaction across the United States has been viral. There have been organized marches countrywide with civil rights heavyweights Reverend Al Sharpton and Rev. Jessie Jackson in the vanguard.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are voicing disgust that with a black man in the White House, a black youth going about his legitimate business could be shot dead by a white vigilante reminiscent of the worst Jim Crow atrocities.
A Congressman voicing his disgust from the podium was evicted from the House of Representatives for putting on the now emblematic “hoodie”, saying wearing it does not make anyone a hoodlum.
Black outrage is widespread, including a call from President Barack Obama for soul searching and an investigation to the chagrin of Republican candidates, who described his comment as disgraceful.
Why expect the first African American president not to comment on the murder of a young man of his own kith and kin? What would other Blacks think if he said nothing?
This brutal crime is a graphic demonstration of the fact that Obama’s election does not mean that the country has moved to post-racial status. Justice demands the immediate arrest and charging of Zimmerman.
As a prominent member of the Black Caucus asked rhetorically: “If the situation was reversed and a black vigilante had shot a white youth, would he still be a free man?”
A number of irrelevancies about Trayvon, like the fact that an empty marijuana bag was found in his pocket and his suspension from school, have been introduced to sully his character and reputation, causing his mother to lament in agony that they had killed her son and were now trying to kill his reputation too.  
American history is riddled with stories replicated by this shooting. The Florida governor, fully conscious of the damage which could follow in the wake of this killing, has appointed a special prosecutor to work on the case which goes to a grand jury on April 10.
Recollection of the mayhem in Watts, Los Angeles, following the Rodney King injustice, engenders the hope that justice will triumph in Sanford.
There are some people in the United States and Barbados who live in daily denial of the cancer of racism. This column of March 16, A Wizard Of Lodge, about my friend and Lodge School alumnus Professor Ken Harewood evoked significant positive responses from Barbadians proud of the international achievements of one of our own.
Two callers, however, took me to task for highlighting the shameful fact that Ken’s father was fired from his job at a St Philip plantation after his son won an athletic race at Lodge.
I pointed out that Barbados and Lodge School in the 1950s were hotbeds of racism and I was isolating a painful episode that Ken recalled in his book which I was reviewing.
I tried to persuade them to get real, face up to the facts of life and unburden their minds of the myth that racism never existed in Barbados. Regrettably, they seemed beyond redemption.

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