Trayvon Martin was a seventeen year old American teenager who was shot dead by George Zimmerman. The murder of Trayvon was highly publicized by the media, owing to the racial layer attached to it. Martin was an athletic, bright young man who was aiming for a future in the aviation industry and wanted to become a pilot. He had no criminal record. He was unarmed when he was shot by a “neighborhood watch” member George Zimmerman. Following the trial, Zimmerman was released from prison sometime later, which gave rise to a heated debate over racial profiling and discrimination. The increasing pressure from all sides forced the police to arrest George, who was tried for murder. He was ultimately declared “not guilty.” On July 13, 2013, he was charged of second-degree murder, while in his defense, George said that the murder was an act of self- defense. The case brought out the racial intolerance that the US has been a victim of for a very long time. Many celebrities raised their voices in support of the victim’s parents. Several petitions were started, which led to President Obama personally intervening into the matter.
Trayvon Martin was born on February 2, 1995, in Miami, Florida, to Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. The couple divorced four years after Martin was born. His father worked as a truck driver and his mother was a program coordinator. Trayvon grew up with an older brother.
Following his divorce, Martin’s father married Alicia Stanley, who had two daughters from her previous marriage. Alicia was a mother-figure for Martin and dedicatedly looked after him. She took him to games and took care of him when he was sick. She brought him up as her own son.
Despite the media portraying Martin as a “young thug,” he was quite the opposite. According to his parents, he was a lovely boy who was kind and helpful toward others. His bravery was showcased by the incidence that took place when he was just nine years of age. In the incident, he had apparently saved his father from a fire in their apartment.
Martin loved playing video games like any other teenager and had started earning for himself while he was still in school. He washed cars, cut grass, and even babysat to earn some decent pocket-money. The football coach for Martin’s school team stated that Martin was one of the best players they had on their team and that he had good athletic abilities.
Martin attended ‘Carol City High School,’ where he was an average student. He had tattooed his family members’ names on his body, expressing his love and respect for them. Although he was mostly a good student, he also got in trouble at times. He was suspended from his school thrice. The tragic incident of his murder took place while he was on his last suspension from school.
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Toward late February in 2012, Martin went to meet his father, who lived in Sanford, Florida. His father was engaged to Brandy Green at that time. The increasing cases of robberies and burglaries had the neighborhood establishing a “neighborhood watch,” who kept an eye on the neighborhood.
In late 2011, George Zimmerman was named the coordinator of the “neighborhood watch” program for his gated community. He had his own licensed gun, which he carried with him while patrolling. He was a racist man, and would get attentive every time he saw a black male strolling around the community. The police had received several complaints from him, where he deemed several black men suspicious without any solid evidence.
The evening of February 26, 2012, turned out to be tragic for young Martin. He came out of his father’s house in the evening, to go to the supermarket to get some iced tea. Zimmerman got attentive and called the police and told them about the presence of a suspicious young man whom he had seen walking between homes and then running, upon noticing him. The police asked him to be more careful and not follow him.
Zimmerman did the opposite and followed Martin on foot. The video footage from the area clearly showed Martin talking on the phone and running only after noticing Zimmerman following him. There was no criminal or aggressive behaviour from Martin’s side, as opposed to Zimmerman’s statement.
The video footage did not clearly show how the confrontation took place and how the shooting began. Witnesses told the police that they heard someone scream, asking for help. Their face-off ended with Martin getting shot in the chest by Zimmerman, in the alley. Martin died on the spot from excessive loss of blood. The spot where he died was about a 100 yards from the townhouse where he stayed.
Arrest & Trial
Following the complaint, a police officer arrived on the spot at 7:17 PM and found Zimmerman covered in wounds from head to toe and Martin lying dead on the ground, bleeding from the wound in his chest. Zimmerman was immediately taken into custody, where he claimed to have shot Martin in self- -defense. The police accepted his statement and released him shortly after that, without filing any charges. This marked the beginning of an outrage by the black American community.
Martin’s father did not know about the incident until much later and found out about it only after he filed a missing person’s report at the local police station. He was outraged when he found that Zimmerman was released without even a trial. A petition was created by Kevin Cunningham, a social-media coordinator, on ‘Change.org,’ which received more than a million signatures asking for Zimmerman to be put behind bars. The petition was later transferred to Martin’s parents.
Gradually, the case became a social-media phenomenon. It was one of the recent cases of racial intolerance that the US has forever been subjected to. The media sided with Zimmerman, and this further amplified the protests, which were mostly peaceful in nature. The case became the talk of every household in the US, with people clearly subjecting it as a case of racial antipathy.
President Barrack Obama spoke about the incident and famously said, “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon…” This statement further proved his support for Martin’s family. Soon, the investigation went underway once again, and Zimmerman was finally charged with second-degree murder on April 11, 2012.
Information from witnesses kept pouring in, making the “racial hatred” angle more prominent. An all-female jury was selected, and the trial officially began on June 24, 2013. In July, the jury gave its final decision and Zimmerman was found “not guilty.” This further initiated a string of peaceful protests among the white conservatives, while the liberals sided with Martin and his family.
Later in the same year, Zimmerman was further charged with violent behavior toward his girlfriend, who alleged that he had choked her and had aimed a gun at her. However, she took her accusations back and no case was filed against Zimmerman.
Trayvon Martin died but opened the raging debate of racial discrimination that has been prevalent in the US since the days of slavery. This case may have been officially closed, but somehow, it has stirred a debate yet again.
The ‘Trayvon Martin Foundation’ was established in March 2012 to increase awareness about the impact of racial violence on the families of victims.