From Rallies to ‘Zimmerman 2012,’ Students Demand Justice for Trayvon Martin
Countless calls for justice echoed throughout the streets of Tallahassee, Fla., on Monday morning.
Unfazed by the last-minute cancellation of a protest organized by community activists, a determined crowd of students convened anyway, chanting together and venting their frustrations on the Florida A&M campus.
More than 200 miles south of where they congregated, in the town where the recent fatal shooting occurred, students were simultaneously rallying outside the Seminole County criminal court building.
The demands of both student crowds were the same: “Justice for Trayvon!”
In late February, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watchman of Caucasian and Hispanic descent, gunned down a 17-year-old African-American male named Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, who weighed a full 250 pounds, claimed he was using self-defense against the 140-pound teenager who was carrying only a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
After calling 911 to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, Zimmerman defied the dispatcher’s orders and followed the teenager as he returned home with the candy he bought for his younger brother. In the 911 tapes, Zimmerman can be heard referring to boy as a “f%#@-ing coon” before killing him with a 9 mm, semi-automatic handgun.
Students remain understandably baffled by the authorities’ refusal to arrest Zimmerman, and they’re arguing that the case’s racial undertones are to blame.
“Trayvon Martin was a student just like me,” Markayla Carson, a Florida A&M student, said at one of the rallies. “It could’ve happened to any black person just walking out in the neighborhood.”
“We want our voices heard,” another student, Jason Reed, told The Huffington Post. “What made [Trayvon] suspicious makes me suspicious. And if it makes me suspicious, it could make your child suspicious.”
The reach of college students has extended far beyond the rallies, as many have turned to social media to raise awareness and force authorities to act. Twitter, Facebook, and Change.org have all seen fierce waves of petitioning and activism calling for justice.
#Justice4Trayvon has trended heavily on Twitter over the past few weeks. More than half a million people have signed a Change.org petition calling for Zimmerman’s arrest (you can sign it here). And on Facebook, dozens of groups have been formed to honor Trayvon Martin and demand action. One such group is called “Zimmerman 2012,” a spin-off of the recent “Kony 2012” movement to bring the most wanted African warlord to justice.
“The reality is that this shooting is not the first of its kind,” the group’s co-founder Haywood Perry III, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, told Campus Progress. “I have a 16-year-old brother who fits Trayvon’s profile all too closely. This is not the type of world that I would want him or my sons to grow up in.”
Perry added that he hopes his campaign and others like it can lead to a justice system that is more fair and equitable for African-Americans.
All of these efforts appear to be making progress, as the Department of Justice announced it will launch an independent investigation into Martin’s death. This development was followed by the Florida State Attorney sending Martin’s case to a grand jury.
Indeed, the voices of these students have joined the cries for justice from Martin’s family and irate citizens across the country, forming a chorus of outrage that has become increasingly difficult for authorities to ignore.
Graham White is a journalism intern for Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @GrahamWhiteNY.
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