On 26 February 2013, 29 year-old George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in the USA. Zimmerman was coordinating a neighbourhood watch service in Sanford, Florida when he came across Martin who was walking home from a nearby store. The pair got into an altercation during which Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest at close range. Later that day, Zimmerman was released after it was alleged that Martin had been aggressive towards Zimmerman.
The shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white man sparked racial tensions throughout the US. The trial of George Zimmerman became a closely followed saga in the US justice system. On Saturday, the racial tension in the country burst out from under the surface. Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin.
The state of Florida has a “Stand your ground” law which came under the spotlight in this case. The “Stand your ground” law simply means that one can shoot first and ask questions later when feeling threatened. This formed the basis of the defence’s case. Zimmerman maintained throughout the trial that Trayvon Martin had been the aggressor on that night and though Martin was unarmed, Zimmerman had felt threatened enough to put a gun to the teenager’s chest and pull the trigger. Zimmerman said that he acted in self-defence.
Protests flared all over the USA from the time the verdict was announced and were still in progress on Monday morning. In New York, protesters from different racial groups gathered in Union Square and marched to Times Square to voice their outrage at the verdict. There were extremely tense protests in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn and other major cities across the country.
The shocked reactions to the verdict reverberated on social networks too. Marches and even more protests are expected as organisers continue to spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. Celebrities are not taking this verdict lying down either. Solange Knowles was seen at the protests in Brooklyn while her sister Beyoncé called for a moment of silence during her Mrs Carter Show World Tour. Rihanna tweeted: “This is the saddest news ever!!! #whatsjustice #pray4theMartinFamily”. Nicki Minaj did not hide her anger: “And our taxes paid for that trial. We just paid to see a murderer walk free after killing an innocent unarmed little boy. #GodBlessAmerica”.
The White House issued a statement by President Barack Obama asking Americans to calm down and let peace prevail. The Justice Department will examine the case and may pursue a federal prosecution under civil rights legislation. In the meantime, protests continue. Many Americans as well as millions of people around the world feel that Trayvon Martin has not yet received justice.