Parents in San Francisco: we want justice for Trayvon Martin

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Denika Chatman, mother of Kenneth Harding, 19, who was killed July 16 over a muni fare, holds up a transfer from that date
PHOTO BY WENDY KENIN

"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," President Obama reflected today. In the wake of Trayvon Martin's death, said Obama, “I can only imagine what these parents are going through.”

Martin, a black 17-year-old walking back to a family friend’s home in a gated community in Sanford, Florida was killed Feb. 26. His killer shot him after pursuing him in his car, and then on foot. 911 tapes and a confession from the killer, George Zimmerman, confirm his guilt. But no jury has had the chance to decide the case, as police have refused to so much as arrest him.

This remains true, even after Sanford police chief Bill Lee Jr stepped down temporarily in response to a nationwide outcry.

Police say that, at the scene, Zimmerman told them he was acting in self-defense. 

“Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony. By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time,” (emphasis theirs) said the chief in a statement yesterday. 

The killing, which has been called a case of “walking while black,” has ignited a call for justice throughout the country.

This call was made March 21 in San Francisco, when hundreds gathered downtown after a protest organized just two days earlier.

At  6 p.m. in Justin Herman Plaza, 500 held candles and listened as parents of black sons murdered in the Bay Area spoke.

Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, whose nephew, Oscar Grant, was killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009, expressed his support to Martin’s family.

“He was only 17. His life was taken away from him. This murder of Trayvon is very personal to me,” said Johnson. “It’s another baby gone.”

He added that, if Zimmerman is not arrested by Sunday, he plans to fly to Florida. 

“My wife and I will be on a plane to support the community.”

“It’s our kids who are going through this thing. If we don’t stand up for them, who will,” said Denika Chatman. Her son, Kenneth Harding Jr, was killed by police in July 2011. He was 19 years old.

The parents of James Rivera, Jr, who was 16 when he was killed by police in July 2010 in Stockton, also spoke to the crowd. 

“The pain still feels like it was yesterday,” said Rivera’s mother, Dionne Smith-Downs. “It’s been almost two years and we’ve received nothing. They didn’t even tell us why they shot our son.”

Many speakers asserted that, had the races been switched in the Martin case, law enforcement would likely have immediately arrested the perpetrator and he would likely be charged by now. Both first degree murder and felony murder are punishable by death in Florida.

In the United States, persons convicted of killing whites are four times more likely to be sentenced to death than persons convicted of killing African Americans. 

Hundreds then marched up Market Street. Many held signs reading “In loving memory, Trayvon Martin: 1995-2012.” Many wore hoodies, the garment that apparently made Martin appear “suspicious” to Zimmerman. 

Chants included “we are all Trayvon Martin,” “protect and serve, that’s a lie, they don’t care when black kids die,” and ‘Zimmerman: guilty. The system: guilty.”

The group then marched to UN Plaza, gaining supporters, including handfuls of passers-by and shoppers on every block. By Sixth Street the group was 700-strong.

Mourners then created a memorial for Martin at the foot of a pillar in UN plaza inscribed with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thousands in New York City also marched to the UN March 21, and the national call coincides with the UN’s International Day to End Racial Discrimination.

At the memorial, silence fell over the crowd when organizers called for participants to speak the name of anyone killed by the racism. In a chilling ceremony, many spoke, naming Sean Bell, Emmett Till, Nat Turner, Ramarley Graham, Fred Hampton, Troy Davis, Tookie Williams, and dozens of other black men killed in the United States spanning slavery, Jim Crow, the civil rights era and today.

Speakers demanded the immediate arrest of Zimmerman. But many maintained that arresting the killer in this case may not prevent “the next Trayvon Martin.”

“When Oscar was killed we said, we must work, because we cannot have another Oscar Grant. Now, we have another Oscar Grant. And there will be another one,” said Johnson.

Several mothers, many of whom did not give their names, spoke of the fear they feel for their children when they walk the streets, not knowing whether they will be the next victim of a racist crime.

“They don’t care when people kill our babies. We have to fight and stand up for our own people and for our children,” said one mother. 

Comments

acted in self-defence. The only issue here is whether that is true or not. It appears the police have not discovered any evidence to the contrary, and find the account to be credible.

The victim's race is irrelevant as the legal issue is exactly the same even if the races were reversed. But of course the usual suspects emerge playing their race cards left and right.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 10:33 am

Great. Then anybody who runs across George Zimmerman on the streets of Florida has the right to shoot-to-kill the bastard if they feel threatened by him. You know what? I think there's a whole lot of people who feel very threatened by George Zimmerman right now, and with good reason. He's proven himself to be a cold-blooded killer.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

This was a teenager who simply went to the store to buy a bag of Skittles. That's it. He was on the phone with his girlfriend, and informed her that he was being followed. There have been dozens of reports about this. So why hasn't the shooter been charged? Do you honestly believe this man would have shot a young white male walking with a bag of Skittles?

Also, the shooter has a long history of calling 911 whenever he sees young black males, including one as young as 7-9. See: http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/trayvon-shooters-911-calls-potho...

Also: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/20/1076125/-911-call-by-Trayvon-Ma...

Posted by emily on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 10:45 am

The only witness to the incident says that the victim attacked the shooter. There is no hard evidence that contradicts the testimony. You can't charge someone for murder if it was self-defence.

Your other "evidence" is merely circumstantial and has no bearing.

It's possible that blacks were rarely seen in that area and also that they have been responsibile for a disproportionate amount of crime. In which case, it might be reasonable for a neighborhood watch captain to approach a young black male who looked out of place there, and that also reasonable that the black might attack the guard to effect an escape.

But we quite simply do not know what happened, so people like Sharpton should quit trying to make this yet another divisive race issue. The kill may have been kosher and legit.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 11:14 am

I don't know the law in Florida, but in California the jury instruction for "circumstantial evidence" says essentially that evidence is evidence, and circumstantial evidence is enough, it is up to the jury to weigh the importance of the evidence, that circumstantial evidence is not categorically suspect. So the notion that circumstantial evidence has no bearing on the outcome is highly suspect to me.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 1:18 am

DA generally will not proceed if they have nothing else.

You should be very, very glad that is the case, as you may one day need to defend yourself.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2012 @ 8:49 am

No matter how "out of place" Zimmerman felt that child looked does not give him the right to shoot him. This grown man followed a child, first in his car then on foot. He was told not to follow him by the cops yet did it anyway. He said f*cking c*ons after he shot this child. And you believe this isn't an issue of race? I hope they give him the death penalty.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

If the kid really did attack Zimmerman, how would you know?

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2012 @ 8:50 am

Are you kidding me? Have you listened to Zimmermans 911 call? He clearly states "fu**ing coons"

There were maybe 4 other 911 calls going on at the time of the shooting - they are also witnesses.

Posted by Not Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 11:53 am

at some point.

His story is hardly credible.

The problem is after gathering all the evidence the DA has to be able to make a case. With all the media around this the DA would likely try something a bit more questionable.

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

Zimmerman outweighed Trayvon by over 100 pounds. He was clearly warned by the 911 dispatchers NOT to follow Trayvon. He said, quite clearly (under his breath) "fucking coons." That goes to show bias - at the least Zimmerman is getting ready to face a whole host of federal hate crime charges.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

To convict for murder, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. All you've really got there is a story that has some flaws in it. No hard evidence.

No witnesses, no video, no photo's.

There is a possibility that it was self-defence, which is enough to raise reasonable doubt. The danger here is that this will be turned into a race issue rather than the purely evidence-based legal case that it should be.

As a juror, I'm not going to put a guy in the lectric chair based on speculation amidst a witch-hunt.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

Wow,
You are REALLY really pushing the envelope with these statements. Zimmerman called the poor UNARMED kid a fucking coon. It is on the 911 tape.
If that doesnt make it about race i dont know what will

Posted by Not Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

Otherwise every black who called me "honky" would be in the big house doing hard time.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

It seems calling someone a "fucking coon" then shooting him 5 minutes later would indicate intent influenced by bias beyond a reasonable doubt.

Zimmerman is cooked, one way or another he's going down.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

If I call you a "Cracker" and then five minutes later you are found shot dead, that doesn't prove that I shot you.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

That's not even in doubt. You're arguing the wrong facts.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

If it was, then there's no crime here.

Where's your proof it wasn't?

Posted by Greg on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 7:32 am

but the point is he did shot him reagrdless if it was self defense or not he killed someone that he decided to purse travon could of attacked him but Zimmerman instegated it im down for whats right and i dont think he deserves the chair but i do think he deserves to do some time

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 11:25 am

What happened before and led to that doesn't necessarily matter in the context of the self-defense.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

Was trayvon looking in a window? If so, who actually instigated the event. Don't jump to conclusions til all the facts come out.......

Why were "Castle" and "stand your ground" laws implemented in the first place?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2012 @ 5:58 am

The pseudo Greg is correct.

At trial the defence will confuse the issue for the jury even more than it already is.

He isn't making the case that Zimmerman is innocent that I have seen. Before a jury the issues will be examined and then strung together in all sorts of ways.

Post OJ this shouldn't really be a point of argument. All issues like this should be passed through the OJ filter, can the prosecution prove motivation and guilt, can the defence confuse the issue enough to show doubt?

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

and yet the jury was convinced there was a small chance that he didn't do it - enough reasonable doubt to acquit.

All a jury has to buy here is that it is possible that it was self-defence. The defendant will claim that and where are the other witnesses?

If that black kid hit, you must acquit.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

WTF is wrong with you? People SAW zimmerman shoot the kid. Did anyone see OJ kill Nicole?

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

also Mirkarimi defender, "video taped evidence is not evidence."

What can be proved in a court of law is what is important here.

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

"clearly", is simply not the case.......

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2012 @ 5:54 am

Reading around about the story Zimmerman's actions leading up to the shooting and then the shooting itself does not make Zimmerman look like he was defending himself. The authors of the gun law think Zimmerman should be prosecuted.

"
“They got the goods on him. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid,” said former Republican Sen. Durell Peaden, a state lawmaker who sponsored the Stand Your Ground law in 2005, The Miami Herald reports. Of Zimmerman, he added, “He has no protection under my law.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74346.html#ixzz1pyJgVYIG
"

To lump this in with Kenneth Harding Jr,and his worthless mother is really not doing anyone any good.

The author saying "Her son, Kenneth Harding Jr, was killed by police in July 2011. He was 19 years old." is disgusting. If the Bay Guardian wants to advance an agenda the agenda should not include free form crazy.

One of the delusional actions of progressives is to insist that the rest of us are too stupid and fooled to understand history and remember anything longer than a week ago. In this case the author remakes history hoping I suppose no one remembers.

Letting that awful mother enable her scum bag son after his self-inflicted death is disgusting. Writing an article saying the cops killed him is an example of the author and Bay Guardians lack of any sense of right and wrong.

For a paper who couches all of its proclamations is moral terms it shows that it has none, yet again.

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

obviously guilty, that were claiming that there wasn't enough hard evidence against Ross.

Yet with Ross there was photo and video evidence, and first hand witness accounts.

Here, there is none of that - only circumstantial evidence.

Hmmm

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

Kenneth Harding Jr. has nothing to do with Trayvon's case other than he was black too. Harding Jr. was a hardened criminal, fleeing the police who accidentally shot himself. I doubt Trayvon's family would appreciate the linking of two totally unrelated cases.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 12:36 pm
Posted by Matlock on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

Comparing an innocent kid who was essentially a victim of muder with a convicted felon, who actually shot himself, on house arrest for armed robbery, after recently pimping out and beating a 13 year old girl, who brandished a loaded weapon at police in a crowded MUNI stop and fired shots...

Just wow. But hey, they're both black! Same story right white liberals, you know!

Posted by Phillip on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

It's painfully obviuous that it was premeditated. I have two sons the eldest is 17. Its as if I lost my son. It's the 60s all over again.Zimmerman might as well have just Lynched him. Dont get me wrong I'm aware of his racial background I'm just appaled at the fact that he referred to Trayvon as a coon.In his 911 call he commented they always get away.They who? Even though he is part black he made a racist statement. Ignorance. Its just sad. We have to continue to Pray for Trayvon Martin's family, Zimmerman, as well as our children.Justice will be prevail.

Posted by GuestMichelle on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

it can be elevated to a hate crime.

But if the murder charge won't stick because of reasonable doubt, then the name-calling is irrelvant.

Don't let your nager about racists terms cloud your ability to assess whether this was self-defence. What if he called the black "coon" and the black then retaliated by attacking him? That's an acquittal.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

I have better things to do than comment all day on chatboards, but since the troll posing as me is out with his florid display of racism, I'll weigh in with my first comment on the thread. Just a couple points...

There is, you know, an audio of the recording, and it shows that Trayvon was crying for help before this self-appointed "neighborhood watch captain" murdered him. The police claimed that they don't know whether the voice was Zimmerman's or Trayvon's, which is absurd. Why would the guy who's 100 pounds heavier and has the gun cry for help before shooting the kid? Why would the police say something like this?

On KPFA the other day, they interviewed Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, about the case. He, like most thinking people, was never too thrilled about this "stand your ground" law. But he made an interesting point -the law is somewhat tangential to this case. If anything, it was supposed to protect people like Trayvon, being pursued by a stalker with a gun, giving him the right to use equal force in self defense. It doesn't give you the right to just shoot someone on the street because you don't like how they look or what they're wearing. So I wonder... what would've happened had it been the other way around and Trayvon killed his attacker? Would he have gotten off without so much as the cops gathering evidence? Would he be walking around free, still in possession of his gun? Or would the cops have hunted him down and shot him like they do with so many other black men?

Just a couple things to think about.

This case isn't about some animal who took away the life of a defenseless young boy. This case is bigger than that. It is yet another incident that shines light on how "justice" is done in America.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 23, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

George Wallace ravings from the racialist "real" Greg.

"Thinking people" equate with people who agree with Greg, all else are too stupid to agree.

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 3:59 am

and yet also claims the killing was "racial" in nature.

So it's OK for Greg to be obsessed with race but, apparently, nobody else can be.

I'm still asking and waiting for tangible proof this wasn't self-defense. Without that, reasonable doubt ensures an acquittal, which is no doubt why the DA's can't move.

The black lobby is trying to talk this up in exactly the same way that greg claims was being done against Ross. More then ironic, huh?

Posted by Greg on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 7:36 am

Obviously very uncomfortable ones, since the only thing the trolls can do to answer them, is dismiss them as "ravings."

Self defense? Are you f-ing kidding me? You're saying that a guy with a gun, 100 pounds heavier than his victim, is claiming "self-defense" against a boy with an iced tea and a pack of skittles whimpering for his life in the moments before he was murdered?

Ok, let's gather some evidence, put him on trial, and let him argue that to a jury of his peers. The fact that none of that was done, the fact that the cops did everything they could to sweep the whole thing under the rug instead of bringing the murderer to justice, is where the real institutional racism lies.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 7:56 am

Anyone can attack anyone else - it doesn't require size or weapons - only intent. And a young man could easily overpower an older man.

All a defense lawyer has to show is that it is POSSIBLE that this was self-defense. Not definite, not probable, not even likely. Just POSSIBLE.

And I have seen nothing to indicate that it is not POSSIBLE. Nor have the cops or the DA's.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 8:38 am

Reasonable doubt is something used in a courtroom as a defense against charges. We can see if a jury believes a beefy 28-year old with a gun who killed a much smaller boy brandishing a pack of skittles and an iced tea and pleading for his life -I'd very much like to find out whether a jury believes that constitutes self defense.

The problem here is that the cops didn't even make an *attempt* to charge him and bring him to justice. They didn't even take fingerprints. They didn't test for gunpowder residue. They didn't even gather evidence. They didn't administer testing for drug and alcohol. Nothing!

Oh wait, actually they did administer a drug and alcohol test -on the VICTIM!

The position you guys are taking is just untenable. I'm not one to pull the race card. But the more you dig yourself into a hole defending this scumbag, the more clear it becomes that you're racists just like the perp and the southern good-ol-boy cops covering for him.

Jeez... even Hannity isn't defending this scumbag.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 9:20 am

You didn't even call him that afterwards.

So Ross has "reasonable doubt" but this guy doesn't because he is a "scumbag".

Again, for "reasonable doubt" there only has to be an alternative explanation. For Ross there would have been an alternative explanation for that bruise except that there was video evidence.

If it is possible that the younger, fitter man attacked the older man then a jury must acquit. Just like OJ - you didn't have a problem with that, right? Er, because the perp was black and the victim white?

That's the inherent hypcrisy at the heart of every liberal.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 9:30 am

...didn't murder anyone.

At most, he grabbed somebody's arm, in an inceident that even the victim has no complaints about.

What sick, twisted moral code you have (or lack thereof) to draw any kind of equivalency between the two.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2012 @ 7:17 am

You constantly claimed that Ross was innocent until proven guilty and yet in your mind Zimmerman is already guilty and therefore a "scumbag".

That you can simultaneously hold both those positions at the same time tells us far more about your innate bias and hypocrisy than it does about the two cases regardless of their differences and simularities.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2012 @ 8:54 am

Does being a "progressive" require you to have no association with the world around you?

The defence just needs to confuse the jury, in your reality there was an OJ case right?

The prosecution has to prove some motivation, even witnesses and video are not proof of motivation, in your reality there was the Rodney King thing right?

Your rote and ridiculous inability to follow the real world is amazing, your howls of racism are tired, those tired howls of racism mixed with your utter inability to accept the real world say a lot, about you.

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 11:01 am

"Just asking questions, Obviously very uncomfortable ones,"

Nope, I agree that the guy shooting is questionable, it is about what can be proven in a court of law. Your ongoing opportunism and George Wallace racialism is not making anyone uncomfortable. As if you are really digging into societies deepest and darkest recess. Howard Zinn was a hack Greg, the only people who think he was deep are teen girls who write to their diary and ethnic studies students like Eric Mar who never grow up.

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 8:57 am

A group of local 'concerned citizens' is in the exploratory stages of establishing a Zimmerman Defense Fund. The goal is to raise funds and public sympathy for this self appointed peace keeper and ensure that he is cleared of any potential charges that might be brought against him. This noble effort demonstrates the flexibilty of the American legal system of which we are so proud and which serves as a model for the rest of the world.
In a recent well publicised case the concept of 'Guilty until proven Innocent' was effectively upheld. This group hopes to now give equal standing to the concept of 'Innocent until proven Guilty'. This would be a significant milestone in legal history and should help confirm that Justice is indeed blind. We are all equal, the guilty and the innocent.
This eminently practical approach is welcomed by all right thinking people, and an excellent example of the common sense 'etch-a-sketch' political philosophy.
GO GIANTS.

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 8:55 am

response to crime and danger in neighborhoods. Remember the subway killer - he won nationwide support.

A neighborhood watch captain approaches a stranger who looks suspect and appears not to fit in. The kid runs away and then later turns on the NW guy who, believing his life to be in danger, used necessary force.

A jury will buy that because it is plausible AND because people are sick and tired of crime in their neighborhoods.

Zimmerman may yet go to trial. But he will be acquitted unless you move the case to somewhere like Detroit.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 9:33 am

JOHANNES MEHSERLE. 'nuff said.

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 10:28 am

Zimmerman belongs in jail, that's all there is to it, he was not acting in self defense the kid was unarmed walking and minding his own business, this psycho followed him like you would track a deer. And before taking this precious young life called him a f*cking c*on. And since when is it the job of a "neighborhood watch captain" to question anyone? Just by listening to the 911 call you can tell this man is guilty. I'm appalled that anyone would try to justify that mans behavior.

Posted by Alexis on Mar. 24, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

Or do you consider the political hue of the perp before deciding that they real;ly should not have the presumtion of innocence and any other constitutional right?

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2012 @ 8:48 am

Not arresting him, not charging him, not even making the most perfunctory attempt at gathering evidence... well that's something else. When the cops cover for a racist killer, that's evidence of institutional racism.

By all means, presume innocence. But arrest the perp, take away his gun, tie those handcuffs tight and throw him in a holding cell without bail (not to be cruel, but because he's a flight risk -a PROVEN flight risk now that he's apparently left the area), give him a fair trial, and then put him away for the rest of his life. With the general population, of course.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 25, 2012 @ 11:11 am

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