The pressure continues to mount from grassroots organizations nationwide to bring charges against Sanford, Florida, town watch member George Zimmerman over Zimmerman’s admitted killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman has alleged that Martin was the aggressor, and Zimmerman shot and killed him in self-defense. Martin supporters, however, point to the 911 call, and to Martin’s phone call with his girlfriend just moments before the shooting as just two pieces of proof that Zimmerman escalated the confrontation. That Zimmerman is white while Martin is Black has only escalated matters, with some calling for hate crime charges to be added.
Martin’s killing and the lack of formal charges has prompted marches, demonstrations and petitions from around the country. Over Easter Weekend, dozens of Florida-area college students marched 40 miles from Daytona Beach to Sanford, raising money and awareness on Martin’s behalf; that group, the “Dream Defenders,” also planned on marching on the headquarters of the Sanford Police Department.
“This movement doesn’t hinge on George Zimmerman of the Trayvon Martin case. It was a catalyst,” participant Phillip Agnew told Bay News. “It awoke, or woke up, a lot of people to what’s going on in America.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi also weighed in on Martin’s shooting, recently stating that she was disturbed by the manner of his death while vowing to answer every question.
“I am both devastated and deeply troubled that young Trayvon Martin lost his life in a shooting. When someone loses his life at the hands of another, there cannot be any questions surrounding the circumstances of the death,” Bondi said through a statement released by her office. “I have spoken with Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, whose agency is now involved, and I know that a complete and thorough review of the facts will be conducted. FDLE has skilled investigators of the highest caliber, and no stone will be left unturned in this investigation.
“While the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office has the sole authority regarding a charging decision by law, I will remain vigilant in ensuring that questions are answered.”
The fate of the Zimmerman/Martin case now rests in the hands of State Attorney Angela Corey, when Florida Governor Rick Scott named Corey the special prosecutor amidst complaints of judicial impropriety. And while there has been a growing sense that Corey would call for a grand jury hearing as early as Tuesday, by late Monday afternoon it was reported that Corey declined to convene a grand jury — which means the decision to bring charges against Zimmerman is one Corey’s office alone will make.
Previously, Corey told the Miami Herald that she is so confident in this case that a grand jury may not be needed.
“I always lean towards moving forward without needing the grand jury in a case like this,” Corey told the Herald. “I foresee us being able to make a decision and move on it on our own.”
If a grand jury were to be convened, Corey has the authority to then release its findings, but the identities of the witnesses and much of the testimony would remain sealed.
While many have staunchly defended Martin and claim that Zimmerman is another in a long line of white racists going on African-American hunting sprees, Zimmerman’s supporters — most vocally his friends and family — have claimed that Zimmerman is not a racist, and echoed Zimmerman’s statements that he acted in self-defense.
Civil Rights leaders Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson both chimed in and led marches in Florida and in other locales to bring attention to Martin’s case.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been at the forefront of the Martin case. Local chapter president Jerry Mondesire — who also owns the Philadelphia Sunday Sun — refused to comment on the Martin case overall, the official stance of the NAACP regarding Martin’s shooting, or the lack of involvement by the Philadelphia branch.
Philadelphia did host a series of rallies and press conferences in the past few weeks, and Ron Felton, president of the Wilkes-Barre branch, did release a statement, in which he talked not only of Martin’s death, but the tragic and underreported murder of 14-year-old Tyler Winstead.
“A candlelight vigil was held on the Public Square by the Wilkes-Barre NAACP and the Peace Center in a show of support to the family of Trayvon Martin … his parents are seeking justice in that the man who murdered their son is arrested and brought to justice,” Felton said through a statement first reported by Times Leader. “Less than 48 hours after the candlelight vigil, another innocent, unarmed 14-year-old boy was shot and murdered less than three doors from his home.”
On that front, the NAACP remains steadfast. It has hosted a series of rallies and marches, with the latest one occurring on March 31 in Sanford.
And on its site — www.naacp.org — it is petitioning for signees of its online open letter to Corey, and the organization has also reconfigured its Facebook page — www.facebook.com/naacp — with “Justice for Trayvon” links and information.