By SEFTON WRIGHT, age 13, CHRISTINA LOUSELL, age 18, NANCY RYERSON and AMANDA VENDER
Trayvon Martin was a normal 17-year-old boy in Sanford, Florida walking down the street with a hoodie, candy and and some iced tea. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, killed Trayvon on February 26. Zimmerman said that it was self-defense, that Trayvon hit him, but Trayvon didn’t have a weapon.
Trayvon’s family is fighting for justice and for Zimmerman to be put in jail. Forty-five days after Trayvon’s murder, Zimmerman was put in jail, but now he is out on bail.
The case is controversial. Some people think it isn’t fair that Zimmerman wasn’t arrested right away. Others think this is a case of racism. Still others believe Zimmerman acted in self-defense.
A Timeline of What Happened:
Before 7 pm: Trayvon Martin walked from a convenience store to his father’s fiancée’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. A gated community is a place where only people who live there and their guests are allowed.
About 7 pm: George Zimmerman, a member of the neighborhood watch, called 911 to report a “suspicious person.” He chased after Trayvon, even though the police dispatcher told him that was not necessary.
7:25 pm: Trayvon was shot dead by Zimmerman. Trayvon’s body was found unarmed, with only a few dollars in cash, a bag of Skittles and some iced tea.
7:30 pm: Zimmerman told the police he killed Trayvon in self-defense. The police let Zimmerman go. Zimmerman had cuts on his head but he did not to go to the hospital.
March 14: Trayvon’s parents created a petition on the website Change.org calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.
March 18: The Sanford, Florida police department released tapes of the 911 calls from the night of Trayvon’s murder raising doubt about Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense; this provoked national outrage.
March 19: The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI announced they would investigate Trayvon’s murder.
March 21: Thousands attend a “Million Hoodie March” in New York City.
March 26: About 10,000 people marched in Sanford, Florida to demand the arrest of Zimmerman.
April 11: Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. He faces up to life in prison.
George Zimmerman’s 911 Call:
George Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
Dispatcher: “OK. And this guy, is he white, Black or Hispanic?”
Zimmerman: “He looks Black.”
Dispatcher: “Did you see what he was wearing?”
Zimmerman: “Yeah, a dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes.”
Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Dipatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”
Stand Your Ground Law: This law in many U.S. states says a person can use deadly force to defend themselves when they feel threatened and they don’t need to retreat first. The law is controversial because a shooter can claim he shot someone in self-defense and the dead victim cannot speak. George Zimmerman will try to use this defense in court.
What Trayvon’s Parents Say:
“Trayvon was our hero. At the age of 9, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. He loved sports and horseback riding. At only 17 he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic. Now that’s all gone.” -Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin
Teacher Fired for Supporting Students’ Interest in Trayvon Martin
An eighth grade class at a school in Michigan planned a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin’s parents. Their teacher, Brooke Harris, was fired for helping her students organize the event, even after receiving permission for the event from the school’s principal.
Harris told Democracy Now: “They just wanted to pay a dollar to wear their regular clothes instead of uniform and donate that money to someone else who they saw needed it.”
An online petition to the school, already with over 200,000 signatures, calls for giving Harris her job back. It says: “When teachers are afraid to address controversial issues in their classrooms, students’ education suffers and our nation’s best teachers are silenced.”
Students Walk Out
On March 26, students walked out of Mount Zion High School in Jonesboro, Georgia, to protest the murder of Trayvon Martin. Facing a suspension – which was later replaced with an essay assignment – Aspen Evans wrote to the administration: “We learn about those who fought for justice during the Civil Rights Movement and we publicly glorify them every February and MLK Day. Why is what we did any different?” -Occupy Wall Street Journal
What you can do:
2. Talk with other kids about the Trayvon Martin case. Learn more about it and share information with other kids.
3. Talk to your teachers about the case. Ask them what they think.