The increasingly notorious shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 has set off a national outcry for justice. Martin was walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Fla. when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a local neighborhood watch volunteer.
Although Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, told police he shot Martin in self-defense, audio tapes of the 911 calls recently released by the police department reveal that Zimmerman actually followed and confronted Martin.
Wendy Dorival, the police department’s volunteer coordinator, said in an interview that using a gun in the neighborhood watch role is out of the question.
“Members of a neighborhood watch are not supposed to confront anyone. We get paid to get into harm’s way. You don’t do that. You just call them from the safety of your home or your vehicle,” she said.
Despite this, Zimmerman has not been arrested and no files have been charged against him. He justifies himself with Florida’s law, Stand Your Ground, which states that citizens have the right to protect themselves using deadly force, rather than retreat, if they believe they are in imminent danger of being killed or badly injured.
However, critics point to the fact that Zimmerman followed and confronted Martin, despite being told to remain in his vehicle by the police operator. As a result, hundreds marched through the streets of New York City last Wednesday night in memory of Martin and to protest the absence of a proper investigation, in what organizers called the “Million Hoodie March.”
The protest came the same week the Department of Justice announced it had opened an inquiry into the shooting and the state attorney in Seminole County said a grand jury would be convened for the case.
During a House floor speech, Florida Representative Frederica Wilson, said, “Today, I applaud the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI, and the Federal Department of Justice for their intervention. I encourage the citizens of Florida and the citizens from around the world to continue to fight for justice for Trayvon Martin. Justice must be served. No more racial profiling.”
However, at the rally at Union Square where the march began, Martin’s parents spoke to the crowd and said, “Our son is your son… It’s not about a black-and-white thing; it’s just about a right-and-wrong thing.”
They are absolutely correct. In essence, Trayvon Martin is a cross-cultural issue, if not a human one, and every American, regardless of skin color, should be concerned with the lack of justice in the case.
Neighborhood watch volunteers are still considered ordinary citizens, not glorified vigilantes. And they are most certainly not allowed to take the law into their own hands then hide behind the shroud of self-defense.
On March 23, President Obama answered questions regarding the Trayvon Martin case saying, “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. I think [Martin’s parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
With those remarks, came a greater call for a thorough investigation of the case. A special prosecutor, Angela Corey, is investigating the case and a grand jury is scheduled to begin deliberations on April 10.
Rallies were held across the country over the weekend to protest the failure of police to conduct a proper investigation or make an arrest. Protestors, some dressed in the now symbolic hooded sweatshirts, gathered for events on Saturday in cities such as Chicago, Columbia, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. with other rallies scheduled for Monday in cities like Denver and Sanford, Florida.
This article originally appeared in Being Latino.