Students and community members from SRU held a demonstration Tuesday afternoon in honor of a Florida teenager who was shot and killed without an investigation.
At 2:26 p.m. Tuesday SRU students and community members gathered in the quad to protest the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Students and community members were given Skittles and asked to wear hoodies, and to lay in the grass in silence for 2 minutes and 26 seconds in an area surrounded by caution tape.
The event was planned and held by the president of the SRU chapter of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Shatreece Johnson, the secretary of the SRU chapter of NAACP Patreece Johnson, president of SUMA (Student Union for Multicultural Affairs) Anissa Rutledge, and the president of BAS (Black Action Society) Mariah Banks. “Typically the NAACP is seen as a more radical organization,” said Shatreece Johnson. “We wanted to showcase that we don’t have to yell and scream in order to be noticed. We didn’t want it to be something intimidating, we wanted it to be something people would feel comfortable about joining.”Rutledge explained Martin’s story before beginning the demonstration.
Martin, 17, was visiting his father and step-mother in a gated community in Stanford, Florida watching a basketball game, Rutledge said. During halftime, Martin went to a convenience store to get his little brother some snacks. On his way back he was spotted by self-appointed neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman. Zimmerman thought that Martin looked suspicious, so he called the police.
The police told Zimmerman to stay in his car and that they would take care of it, Rutledge explained. Zimmerman ignored this request, got out of his car, the two got in a fight, and Zimmerman ending up shooting Martin in the chest. Witnesses reported hearing Martin screaming for help. Zimmerman stated that this was self-defense, yet a police search revealed that Martin was not carrying any weapons, but rather a package of Skittles and a bottle of tea.
“We are out here because we feel that this is an injustice and something should be done about it,” Rutledge concluded.
Johnson said that a lot of students asked if the NAACP were planning any events in response to Martin’s shooting. The group waited to see if any other organizations on campus were going to announce any events, but none did. On Friday, leaders from NAACP, BAS, and SUMA joined together to start planning the event.
“When we were planning this, we thought it was just going to be the four of us lying on the ground,” Rutledge joked.
The time 2:26 represented February 26 the date that Martin was shot explained Johnson. Students who were participating in the demonstration were given Skittles and iced tea in order to represent the groceries that Martin was a carrying. The hoodies represented the hoodie that Martin was wearing, which Zimmerman called “suspicious.” Johnson stated that they wanted this to be a symbol of the demonstration’s solidarity.
“I liked the demonstration,” said sophomore professional writing major Ronell Anderson. “It made sense. I liked how it was a silent demonstration because some of the more verbal protests can turn into a riot or become violent especially because many people see it as a racial issue.”
Johnson considers the demonstration to be a success. She explained that a lot of students had strong feelings about the case and joined in the demonstration. She also noted that there were not only students, but also faculty and staff who felt that it was important to come.
“I came out because I think that there has been a gross miscarriage of justice,” said English professor Dr. Cindy LaCom. “I think that it’s important that we recognize it and I also think that it’s important for people who think racism is a thing of the past to be reminded nationally, and on our campus, that it’s pervasive.”
While LaCom believes that the problem is related to racism, philosophy department chairperson Dr. Bradley Wilson suggests that the problem lies within questionable laws.
“I’m troubled by the fact that there are places that you can shoot someone and just on the basis of your statement that you felt threatened would not lead to an investigation, Wilson said. “I think that this case demonstrates why the stand-your-ground law is problematic.”
Florida is one of many states that have the stand-your-ground law, Wilson explained. The more common self-defense law is the Castle Doctrine which only allows legal self-defense when a criminal has entered private property. The stand-your-ground law allows legal self-defense to be claimed anywhere. Because Zimmerman stated that he shot Martin out of self-defense, there was no investigation and no charge against Zimmerman.
“In most states the law is that if you have a reasonable belief that you are in imminent danger with deadly force, but you have an avenue to retreat, then your first duty is to retreat,” explained business professor and attorney John Golden. “The key word is imminent meaning that the person has to be right in front of you, and has to have the capability to use deadly force. In a stand-your-ground state, you’re justified in using deadly force.”
Golden said that any violent death automatically becomes a coroner’s case. A coroner is a government official who investigates deaths, issues death certificates, and identifies unknown bodies. When a case becomes a coroner’s case, the coroner must make a recommendation about what should be done.
The district attorney’s office will also usually hold an individual investigation.