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As a 72-year-old black woman, I am upset over the killing of Trayvon Martin. This seems the final straw to closing off any good relationships between blacks and law enforcement. By allowing George Zimmerman, the shooter, to walk away from the crime scene without an investigation, law enforcement is saying a black man, dead or alive, does not count.
Zimmerman, a coward with a handgun, would not have stalked and approached a real, suspicious gang-banger. But in the case of Trayvon Martin he could see the opportunity to harass a naïve, innocent black youth. Was Martin "standing his ground," unarmed, when invaded by gun-happy Zimmerman, who provoked a fight? Yes. And he was killed in cold blood while screaming for help. The frightened Zimmerman has been in hiding since the shooting.
Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed after buying candy and pop from the store on Feb. 26. Walking home, he was stopped by watchman Zimmerman. An argument ensued. Zimmerman shot Martin. Zimmerman claimed self-defense.
As I read newspaper reports about the story, it becomes clear that if the powers-that-be don't change the laws so that black men can walk out the front door and not be at risk, then things will get out of hand. As a matter of fact they have already gotten out of hand. It was reported in the Sunday Tribune that members of the New Black Panther Party said during a rally in Sanford, Fla., that they are offering a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman's capture.
Law enforcement has to do its job - the right job. But rather than do the right thing, the Sanford chief of police, Bill Lee, steps down temporarily until the mess is over. On April 8, more than a month later, the Justice Department starts reviewing the killing. Florida prosecutors said Zimmerman will go before a grand jury on April 10 to give evidence.
I hope the grand jury will take into consideration the significance of the miscarriage of justice committed under Florida's self-defense law.
Across the country, states with such laws and states without such laws have allowed hundreds of black men to be killed by police and go unpunished. Amadou Diallo, an unarmed 23-year-old Guinean immigrant in New York City, received dozens of gunshot wounds and was killed on Feb. 4, 1999 by four New York City police. All four officers were acquitted at trial in Albany, N.Y. Another resident of New York, Ramarley Graham, 18, was killed by police in the Bronx on Feb. 2. The police chased him on the basis of a false report that he was armed. He was shot and killed in his bathroom. The case was sent to the Bronx District Attorney's Office and will be referred to a grand jury.
Here in Chicago, 34-year-old Freddie Latee Wilson, a West Side rapper was gunned down on Nov. 13, 2007. An independent board, the Office of Professional Standards, established after Wilson death is (as far as I know) still reviewing the case. Finally, a 73-year old man from Homer, La., Bernard Monroe, was killed in his front yard. Numerous witnesses said police killed Monroe without justification and then moved a gun to make it look like he had been holding it.
"We are closely monitoring the events in Homer," said Donald Washington, the U.S attorney for the western district of Louisiana, in a media report. "I understand that a number of allegations are being made that, if true, would be serious enough for us to follow up on very quickly."
Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin. The name rings out like a fire bell in the night. I hear it as an emergency alarm that needs attention now. The name brings up the painful history of black people in America. A history of black men lynched and murdered. And history has taught us that the accusers of the crime go unpunished. History has also taught us that justice does not come without struggle - and sometimes not even then.