This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 15 July 2013 contains one article. It may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as it is credited.
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U.S.: “We are all Trayvon Martin!”
15 July 2013. A World to Win News Service. The acquittal of George Zimmerman, the gun-carrying neighbourhood vigilante who murdered the Black teenager Trayvon Martin, sent waves of anger rolling across the U.S.
During the hours while the jury was deliberating the case, vigils and rallies were held in many American cities to await the verdict. The jury accepted Zimmerman’s argument that he shot Martin in self-defence. As soon as the judge told Zimmerman he could take back his gun and walk out of the courtroom a free man on the night of 13 July, marches, demonstrations and other forms of protest broke out, including in Sanford, Florida, the small Southern town where the killing took place.
That night there were major protests in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles in California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Washington; Harlem, New York; and many other places. The following day some 5,000 people marched through various parts of Manhattan, gathering support as they went.
As described by Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, “At times the march went against the traffic, people walking between the cars as drivers honked in support. People chanted, ‘We are all Trayvon Martin’ and ‘No Justice, No Peace’. Started by revolutionaries, hundreds took up the chant ‘The whole system is guilty’ on their own. As the march went through the crowded streets of Manhattan into Times Square, many of the onlookers cheered in agreement.
“The marchers were an incredibly diverse array of people – young and older, from the ‘hood, including hard-edged youth, along with people of all nationalities. For many, this was their first political action. There seemed to be a pleasant surprise among many Black people that many white people had come out to demonstrate.
“Protesters filled the streets of Times Square with thousands of tourists taking pictures and video recording the march. A rally was held in the middle of Times Square with people climbing on top of five-foot-high garbage containers with a bullhorn. Twice revolutionaries addressed the crowd, calling on people to resist this open season on Black and Latino youth… pointing to the reality that stopping outrages like the murder of Trayvon Martin, the slow genocide against Black people, and all the system’s crimes once and for all requires revolution, nothing less… and calling on people to get into Bob Avakian. At one point, several hundred people continued the march, heading for Harlem.”
Following are excerpts from an article on the eve of the trial, before the verdict. “Lies, Slanders… and the Cold-Blooded Lynching of Trayvon Martin” appeared in the issue of Revolution dated 14 July. (www.revcom.us)
Trayvon Martin was a Black teenager gunned down by a vigilante killer just after 7 pm on the evening of February 26, 2012. He was walking to his father’s house with a can of ice tea and a bag of candy.
George Zimmerman knew nothing about Trayvon Martin, never even heard of him. But he thought he knew him. All Zimmerman had to see was a young Black man in a hoodie [hooded sweatshirt] walking home with a snack, and he “knew” that Trayvon Martin was a “suspect”. He “knew” Trayvon Martin was a “fucking punk.” He “knew” Trayvon was “a fucking asshole” who “always gets away with it.”
And based on that, Zimmerman got out of his car, stalked Trayvon Martin, pressed a 9mm pistol into Trayvon Martin’s sweatshirt right at his heart. He fired a hollow-point bullet into Trayvon’s heart, killing him nearly instantly.
Zimmerman never showed any remorse for killing Trayvon Martin. Not when he pulled the trigger. Not when he told police over and over again – without any basis – that Trayvon was “the suspect”. Not when directly asked if he would change anything if he could, in a TV interview that was played in court. In that TV interview, Zimmerman claimed – obscenely – that it was “god’s will” for him to kill Trayvon Martin.
And through this all, Zimmerman has acted as if he has a whole system behind him. For good reason. The Trayvon Martins of this country (and this world) have been branded suspects by a system that has no future for them. From endless depictions of them as thugs on TV and in the movies, to the institutionalized criminalization of them through “stop-and-frisk”, to the schools-to-prison pipeline to mass incarceration, they are a generation for whom this system has no future.
But Trayvon Martin was a human being! He had a right to live, to have a future, and so do millions like him. And so the stakes of this trial are truly decisive to the kind of world people will live in.
As the prosecution presented its case in this trial, over and over it has been revealed how Zimmerman coldly murdered Trayvon. Evidence has come out that Zimmerman got out of his car, followed Trayvon when the non-emergency dispatch operator told him not to, lied to the dispatch operator to cover his tracks as he stalked Trayvon, and shot Trayvon Martin point-blank through the heart.
This was Zimmerman’s state of mind: He saw a Black youth he “knew” was up to no good. Zimmerman chased Trayvon down with malice, and shot him straight through the heart knowing this would kill him and then afterwards gave a narration like a proud wannabe cop killing a “perp”[police slang for a criminal]. In his statement to the cops he referred to Trayvon repeatedly as the “suspect”when in fact it was Zimmerman who was taken into custody for killing Trayvon! And the police who “interviewed”Zimmerman shared that mentality, not challenging him on this.
Some truth emerges in court
Prosecutors ended their case on Friday, 5 July. There was testimony as to statements Zimmerman made to police, and testimony of a close friend of Zimmerman’s who wrote a book justifying the murder of Trayvon Martin. Through this material, as well as other statements he has made that were reported in the press, Zimmerman’s versions of what happened that night were revealed to contradict each other, and to be full of lies.
Prosecutors also called several witnesses, most notably Rachel Jeantel who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin for much of the time he was being stalked and followed by Zimmerman. She testified to Trayvon’s fear of his stalker and his efforts to get away from him.
Rachel Jeantel testified in court that during this call Trayvon told her he was being stalked by a strange man – a “creepy-ass cracker” [racist white] as she said Trayvon called him. She told the court that Trayvon told her he was going home, and never said he was going to confront the man following him.
Zimmerman had gotten out of his vehicle in pursuit of Trayvon despite instructions not to from the non-emergency dispatcher. He was armed with a loaded 9-mm handgun.
During this time, Rachel Jeantel testified that she advised Trayvon to run. He replied he was walking fast. Rachel said the last thing she heard Trayvon say was “Get off, get off”. Then their connection cut off. Rachel Jeantel, as she told the court, was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin.
When police arrived on the scene, Trayvon Martin was lying face down on the ground, bleeding to death from the one blast that tore Trayvon’s heart open. The dead body of Trayvon Martin was tested for drugs; Zimmerman never was. Zimmerman was taken into police custody. Five hours after he shot and murdered Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was released by Sanford police with no charges filed. The next morning, Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, was notified that his son had been killed the previous night.
These are facts established by the public record, documented by phone logs and recordings, corroborated by the testimony of key witnesses, in particular Rachel Jeantel. George Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin, picked up his gun, got out of his car looking for the “fucking punk” he didn’t recognize. Then he found Trayvon, and shot him dead.
Lies, confusion, and distortion from the defence
Any witness who in a significant way stood in the way or challenged the fable of Trayvon as a thug who assaulted Zimmerman, and Zimmerman as the watchman protecting the neighbourhood, was subjected to a barrage of hateful vitriol and ridicule in the courtroom, and gutter-level attacks on social media.
This was most true of Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon’s friend since grade school, who was talking on the phone with him when Zimmerman began stalking Trayvon. Rachel Jeantel’s testimony is some of the most substantial in this case, and she is one of the more credible witnesses. The time and length of her phone calls with Trayvon as he walked towards his father’s home are well documented, and they corroborate most closely with all the available evidence. And these are precisely the facts that are “lost”or “forgotten” in much of the media commentary on Rachel that has focused instead on her appearance, her demeanour and her attitude.
Rachel Jeantel stood up to hours of badgering, haranguing, and insult, and then to attacks waged on social media.
What kind of legal system – what kind of social system – would heap such abuse on a young woman who comes forward to testify to the truth about what she knows of the murder of her friend? As Revolution wrote last week, bullies who act like this in the courtroom or in society generally are “trained to act and react by a system, to spew their ignorant venom full of the confidence of someone who feels they have power on their side.”
The vilification of Trayvon began in the mass media and on social media shortly after his murder. At that time, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, said “even in death, and Trayvon is gone and not returning to us, they are still disrespecting my son, and that’s a shame. The only comment I have right now is that they’ve killed my son, and now they’re trying to kill his reputation.” The hateful, racist atmosphere has intensified and expanded during this trial.
Here are two basic facts of life in the U.S.A., 2013 – youths like Trayvon Martin are murdered by police, and even by racist vigilante killers like George Zimmerman; and tens of thousands of youths like Trayvon Martin are put into prison year after year by this system that has no future for them.
What made the murder of Trayvon Martin different from the murders of other Black and Latino youth was that despite the police treatment of Trayvon’s murder as legitimate self-defence by George Zimmerman, despite the fact that no charges were immediately filed against Zimmerman, despite the treatment of this case in the Florida media as “just another killing of a Black youth who was somewhere he shouldn’t have been”, the story of a 17-year-old kid wearing a hoodie who was shot down while he was walking to his father’s home with a soft drink and a bag of candy became national news – and a focus of national outrage and protest.
In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black youth from Chicago was lynched by white men while visiting relatives in Mississippi. His body was horribly mutilated, weighted with a 70-pound fan, and dumped in the Tallahatchie River. The killers were not charged.
Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, courageously insisted on an open casket at her son’s funeral, so people could see what had happened to him. The widespread outrage and anger that spread throughout the country over the savage death of Emmett Till became a spark that catalysed thousands of people in a growing struggle to end the injustices perpetrated on Black people.
The cold-blooded murder – the modern-day lynching – of Trayvon Martin also sparked deep and widespread outrage throughout U.S. society. And now we’re at a crucial turning point in the struggle for Justice for Trayvon.
As a recent Revolution editorial put it, right now “the situation in the world, and in this country, is very intense. There is the potential for eruptions ‘in the routine’ of one kind or another.” Mass incarceration of Black and Latino people, especially youth; relentless assaults on women and in particular on the right to abortion; continuing wars and occupation, and new revelations of massive government spying; all this and much more is part of a “cauldron of contradictions”confronting the rulers of this capitalist-imperialist system.
The battle for justice for Trayvon Martin is framed by that bigger picture – and it has the potential to alter that picture – if people ACT. It can mark a big step towards the day when no longer are people like Trayvon Martin and his friend Rachel Jeantel treated like part of a “generation of suspects” – Black youth who people in this society are conditioned and trained to look at as “fucking punks”. People who can be hunted down and shot, and the police sweep it away like its just another day on the job.
As Revolution wrote recently, society is polarizing around the murder of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman, and “this growing struggle must be repolarized into broader energy, clarity, and direction for Justice for Trayvon Martin… and for revolution and emancipation altogether.” The need to act on that understanding is more urgent than ever.
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In last week’s article “Egypt: Time to cast off illusions”, the first sentence should have read: The military intervention is not “the revolution 2.0”, “the third wave of the Egyptian revolution” or even a “reset”.