Monday, July 15, 2013

Standing on Bitter Ground

On Saturday, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Since the verdict was announced, protests have broken out nationwide.

Thousands of demonstrators from across the country — chanting, praying and even fighting tears — protested a jury’s decision to clear neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager while the Justice Department considered whether to file criminal civil rights charges. [...]

The NAACP and protesters called for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday in Martin’s February 2012 shooting death. The Justice Department said it is looking into the case to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case. The department opened an investigation into Martin’s death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed. [...]

In Miami, more than 200 people gathered for a vigil. “You can’t justify murder,” read one poster. Another read “Don’t worry about more riots. Worry about more Zimmermans.” Carol Reitner, 76, of Miami, said she heard about the vigil through an announcement at her church Sunday morning. “I was really devastated. It’s really hard to believe that someone can take the life of someone else and walk out of court free,” she said. [...]

In Philadelphia, about 700 protesters marched from LOVE Park to the Liberty Bell, alternating between chanting Trayvon Martin’s name and “No justice, no peace!”

“We hope this will begin a movement to end discrimination against young black men,” said Johnathan Cooper, one of the protest’s organizers. “And also to empower black people and get them involved in the system.”

A young man was gunned down for walking outside while black. He was carrying Arizona iced tea and Skittles. And he was wearing a hoodie. This is what George Zimmerman found "threatening".

Somehow, a jury of six in Sanford, Florida, found Zimmerman's story possible. So they acquitted him. And protests have since spontaneously emerged nationwide. When is the slaughter of an innocent teenager justified?

That's what continues to be asked in Florida and nationwide. When did the victim become the suspect? When did racial profiling become "public safety"? Why is this happening?

Not only have the NRA, ALEC, and the rest of "Tea Party, Inc." succeeded in recent years in making so many dangerous weapons readily accessible (even to criminals), but they have also passed "Stand Your Ground" laws across the country (including a limited version here in Nevada) that encourage the very vigilantism that George Zimmerman engaged in. And on top of that, these "Stand Your Ground" laws allow vigilantes like Zimmerman to walk away free after shooting innocent people.

So where do we go from here? What happened over the weekend served as a stark reminder of the many loopholes in our gun laws... And of the long road ahead to remedy continuing racial discrimination across this country.

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