Locals express grief, anger over Trayvon Martin killing: Corportations abandon ALEC over controversial gun law
|April 30, 2012||Posted by John Zangas under Featured, News, Print Issues, Volume 2, Issue 3 (May/June 2012)|
Washingtonians gathered on a rainy day to protest the police response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. Citizens held up photos of Trayvon wearing a hoodie outside the D.C. City Council near Freedom Plaza. The crowd numbered several hundred and spilled onto Pennsylvania Avenue.
On February 26, George Zimmerman of Sanford, Florida followed and shot the hooded black youth, killing him. Trayvon’s parents reported their son missing for three days, while his body lay in the city morgue. After claiming self defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman was released by police without charge.
Coast-to-coast interest in the story gave rise to a firestorm of national protests, marches and speeches. “I can’t believe that such a terrible thing could happen in 2012,” said Janice Ferebee, author and community advocate for minority girls. “This is truly a sad moment for his family and we’re here to show support for them.”
Dick Gregory, who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement in 1960’s, said, “This is bigger than what we think it is, there are some questions that need to be asked. […] How can he be killed 70 feet from his home, his body held for three days, and his parents don’t know about it?”
Reverend Graylan Hagler, local civil rights activist and Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church, spoke at the protest, “Racism has been pervasive in this country since the first folks set their foot on Plymouth Rock, […] Racism has become so insidious and when you mix guns with race and racism you’re bound to have a disaster!” He added, “We’re here to say that enough is enough. We’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna stand shoulder to shoulder with one another and we’re not gonna let anybody die in vain. Are you ready to stand up?”
The Stand Your Ground law was authored by the members of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), a conservative corporate support organization that has since disbanded its pro-gun lobbying arm. ALEC helped pass similar laws in 23 states by funneling support from corporate interests to state legislatures.
The Stand Your Ground law received broad support from pro-gun groups and gun manufacturers. One consequence of law has been an increase in the number of self-defense deaths. A report by CBS in Miami shows that since the law was enacted in 2005, “justifiable” deaths have risen by nearly 300%.
“We are a nation of laws,” said Clarence Clayton of Maryland, “but more and more the laws are failing the very people they are meant to help and it’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses.”
Occupy protesters and student activists at Howard University organized a second protest in Meridian Park on April 7, which generated community involvement of over 500 protesters. Shoulder to shoulder, they walked down 14th Street NW, blocking traffic, chanting, and calling spectators to join.
Howard University student and Occupy DC Criminal Injustice committee member Corryn Freeman was a key organizer of the protest. “We marched in solidarity with the Martin family because they have been unable to mourn the death of their son,” Freeman said. “One of the goals of the Million Hoodie March was to help connect people who care about racially motivated injustice with institutions and organizations that are combating racial injustice […] We provided venues for people to plug into to combat injustice,” said Freeman. The Howard University drama club performed a reenactment of the crime based on 911 tapes and Florida police reports.
Occupy DC Progressive Caucus member Carl McClinton commented, The black community has been more active since this happened than I have ever known.” McClinton is helping to build a coalition of black organizations to work against the prison system. “Our pain is real, racism is not yet defeated. It is another battle that needs to be fought.” He credited Occupy as “inspiration for people to stand up and people are hungry for changes.”
In the weeks following the death of Martin, news reports began running similar stories. One detailed the killing of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed black woman slain by an off-duty detective in Chicago. As of press time, he has not been charged with her killing.
Another story featured the naturalized Iraqi immigrant Shaima Al-Awadi, who was slain in her home after a hate note was left outside. Outrage over these killings have drawn protesters to the Trayvon Martin incident.
Protests across the nation have continued unabated, and the Florida legislature has begun to review its Stand Your Ground law. Concurrently, ALEC has lost the support of many large corporations, including McDonald’s, Kraft, Intuit, Wendy’s, Pepsi, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These corporations did not want to be associated with the social disorder the law has created. Zimmerman has since been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, but the final outcome of the Trayvon Martin killing remains open.