Protesters outside of the Seminole county court house in Sanford, FL engaged in a chilling call-and-response. The leader cried out in a strong masculine voice “Who’s that crying?” and the crowd responded “Trayvon’s crying!” I watched each of their impassioned faces as they belted out their impromptu protest chant, and my mind wandered to the recording of the 911 tapes that were released by the Sanford police department a few days ago. If you listen closely to one portion of the tape, as a concerned neighbor describes the scene to the operator, you hear Trayvon’s literal cry for help in the background before he was silenced by a single gunshot.
Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African American male was shot on February 26, 2012 as he was walking back from the store to a home he was visiting in Florida. He was spotted by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, 28 as he was making his way up the street in the Sanford subdivision. Zimmerman placed a call to 911 to report a suspicious individual and was told that the police were on the way and not to pursue the young man on his own. Minutes later, Trayvon lay dead from a gunshot wound admittedly inflicted by Zimmerman. To date, Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged with a crime in connection to a murder he admits committing. The Sanford Police Department told Trayvon’s parents that Zimmerman was not arrested because he had a clean record, which upon investigation was found to be untrue. Zimmerman was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer back in 2005 but those charges were later dropped. The Sanford police have not explained why they lied to the victim’s family. They also cited a “stand your ground” law that was enacted in 2005 in Florida under pressure from the right-leaning organization, the National Rifle Association. The NRA has notoriously used their influence to counter any gun control efforts made by the government. Many groups, including the police department were in opposition to this law that allows people to use deadly force if they feel at all threatened by another individual. Trayvon was unarmed and reportedly was only in possession of a bag of skittles and an iced tea so the question remains in many people’s minds, what exactly made the neighborhood watch captain feel so threatened when he was the one with the upper hand because he had a firearm. He was seated in an SUV as he placed his call to 911 and Zimmerman had to exit the vehicle to pursue Trayvon. Although Zimmerman told the police that he committed the act in self-defense, some neighbors, several of whom placed their own calls to 911, portray a different sequence of events. The facts seem to poke holes in his defense but apparently his defense has been enough to evade arrest so far. Since the passage of this law, justifiable homicide rates have tripled in the sunshine state.
The first time I heard the crowd scream “Trayvon’s crying!” tears sprang to my eyes almost instantaneously as I thought (as I am sure many have) about how easily this could have been my 21 year old brother who could be described as suspicious if we are using Mr. Zimmerman’s definition. One needs only to be a black man walking after all. It makes me worry for my five year old son who I thought wouldn’t have to inherit these issues that have plagued Black men for centuries. Although Trayvon’s story is unique in its circumstances and details, the premise of this case is one that is familiar to the African American community. The outrage has been far reaching, and although it took almost three weeks, the main stream media is finally giving this story the attention it has deserved since day one. On her MSNBC show, Melissa Harris-Perry implored the audience to remember Trayvon’s name because so many of these boys and men that have suffered this fate in the past have faded into history. I found her argument compelling when she stated that at a time when his parents are probably wondering if his life mattered at all, at least we can remember his name. Let us not forget his name, let us not forget the gruesome cry we heard in the background of that 911 call, and let us all cry out for justice for Trayvon.
911 Call Witnessing Trayvon’s Cry for Help!
Written by: Kika Ramsay