It was recently reported that George Zimmerman has been arrested and charged in the murder of 17 year old, Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, 28, pulled the trigger on the unarmed Martin as he walked home from a convenience store. The police officers engaged in the original investigation of the death of Trayvon Martin assert that Zimmerman was not charged because of a Florida law, Stand Your Ground, that makes it difficult to arrest and prosecute homicide suspects who claim self-defense.
Given the facts of this case, the police’s conduct has caused some to question whether or not there is equal protection under the law for African-American’s in the state of Florida. There have been similar cases in the state of Florida where the victim of a violent crime was African-American and the perpetrator was white and there were little or no sanctions imposed by the “justice system” for the commission of a serious crime.
The story of Trayvon Martin’s senseless shooting death and the police response has garnered both national and international attention and has resulted in protests across the country. Martin’s death February 26, 2012 at the hands of a volunteer Neighborhood Watch leader, George Zimmerman, in a small, gated Florida community has rippled through many corners of the nation’s justice and political system and raised questions about the relationship between the black community and police in small towns.
Zimmerman’s arrest is welcome news for the countless number of people who marched and rallied for justice for Trayvon. Although the prosecutor in this case would disagree, everyone who has worked to fight for justice for Trayvon were a part of making Zimmerman’s arrest happen.
As we move into this new phase in the Trayvon case, many are going to want to use this to dampen down the level of protest that was ignited. We know however, that this is not an isolated incident. Advocates for justice have to continue to take on systemic racism, which is what put the idea in Zimmerman’s head that Trayvon – in a hoodie – was suspicious and a “criminal”.
Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, and countless other victims of police violence and those who become entangled in the justice system – all expose how broken that the criminal justice system is in the United States. We, as a nation, have begun to witness the beginnings of a modern day civil rights movement that author Michelle Alexander[i] argues is the one thing that can truly push back against the new Jim Crow that is our criminal “injustice” system.[ii] The need for such a movement is great and the power that collective action can have is shown by the arrest of George Zimmerman.
Source: Council to End Death Penalty. Wikipedia. Ohio University. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/12/tagblogsfindlawcom2012-blotter-idUS371331303320120412
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[i] Professor Alexander joined the OSU faculty in 2005. She holds a joint appointment with the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Prior to joining the OSU faculty, she was a member of the Stanford Law School faculty, where she served as Director of the Civil Rights Clinic.
Professor Alexander has significant experience in the field of civil rights advocacy and litigation. She has litigated civil rights cases in private practice as well as engaged in innovative litigation and advocacy efforts in the non-profit sector. For several years, Professor Alexander served as the Director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, which spearheaded a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement. While an associate at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, she specialized in plaintiff-side class action suits alleging race and gender discrimination.
Professor Alexander is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the United States Supreme Court, and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
[ii] Council to End Death Penalty