CALLING FOR ACTION: Trayvon’s parents Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton
FURY OVER the shooting death of an unarmed black boy by a neighbourhood watchman has spread from the streets of Florida in the US to central London.
The death of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead while only carrying a bag of skittles and an iced tea, continues to send a chill through the hearts of parents from all walks of life.
Trayvon’s face has been a symbol of what can befall any black boy in societies where prejudice means someone can be judged by their skin colour and hoodie.
Today, thousands are expected to gather outside the American Embassy at 1.30pm for a protest called by Campaign 4 Justice, Tottenham Defence Campaign, BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts), Inquest and comedian Ava Vidal, and supported by Defend the Right to Protest.
Campaigners also want to see the arrest of neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon.
KILLED: Trayvon Martin
A spokesperson for Defend the Right to Protest said: “This peaceful picket is called to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family from London, where racial profiling has also cost the lives of many black people in police custody. Please come, wear a hoodie, bring a packet of Skittles, your children, friends, family and anyone else you can gather to say no to racism and call for justice for Trayvon Martin, who died walking home while being black!”
The 17-year-old was returning to his father’s fiancee’s house on February 26 after buying Skittles for his younger brother and an iced tea for himself at a nearby 7-Eleven store when he was shot and killed by Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, who is of white and Hispanic heritage, claimed the teen was acting ‘suspicious’ and that he later shot him in self-defence during a confrontation in the Sanford, Florida, gated community.
However, the self-defence claims have been rubbished by the boy’s parents and outraged community members, who have referred to recordings of the incident, heard during a telephone call made by Zimmerman to the emergency services and on Trayvon’s friend’s phone.
Family attorney Benjamin Crump said Trayvon’s friend said the teenager told her someone was following him and that he was going to try to lose him. She heard sounds of a confrontation, which included hearing Trayvon say, ‘Why are you following me?’ and another voice saying, ‘What are you doing around here?’
The London protest comes after a similar demonstration in the US over Trayvon’s killing. Thousands of demonstrators marched wearing hoodies in New York’s Union Square on March 21, demanding that Zimmerman, who up to press time had not been arrested, be brought to justice.
SUPPORT: Bishop John Francis wore a hoodie while preaching on March 25
During what has been dubbed ‘The Million Hoodie March’, demonstrators dressed in hooded sweatshirts - just like Trayvon had worn on the day he died - chanted: “We want arrests!”
Veteran civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton summed up the general feeling in the hearts and minds of many black people on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Trayvon could’ve been any one of our sons,” he told the crowd. “Trayvon could’ve been any one of us.”
Martin’s father Tracy told marchers: “My son did not deserve to die… I’ve told myself, when I get justice for Trayvon, then I’ll have my time to break down.”
Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina, added: “My heart is in pain, but to see the support of all of you really makes a difference.”
Earlier she had told US news channel NBC: “He [Zimmerman] was reacting to the colour of his skin… My son committed no crime. My son wasn’t doing anything but walking on the sidewalk. And I just don’t understand why this situation got out of control.”
More than 4,000 miles away, in London, another mother who lost her teenage son reached out to Trayvon’s family in sympathy.
Doreen Lawrence, whose 18-year-son Stephen was stabbed to death by racist thugs in 1993, sent a personal letter to Trayvon’s parents.
It took the Lawrence family 19 years of campaigning before two men were convicted of killing Stephen.
Other black Britons have expressed outrage over the case on The Voice’s Facebook page.
Sarah Edwards wrote: "I hope that more Brits pay attention to this, if you listen to what happen it is actually shocking that the man who shot this 17-year-old boy hasn’t even been arrested."
Miranda Matthews added: "Stephen Lawrence case all over again... Let’s see what happens to this guy."
A grand jury will convene in central Florida to consider the case on April 10 but the controversy and fury show no signs of slowing down.
PETITION: Millions have called for the arrest of George Zimmerman
An online petition urging local authorities to prosecute Zimmerman has been signed by more than two million people at website Change.org, while a number of celebrities have also joined in the campaign for justice either by tweeting, discussing it or, like Bishop John Francis, head of powerful Ruach Ministries in south London, wearing a hoodie while delivering his Sunday sermon on March 25.
Voice reader Christiana Mbakwe, from London, said she was going further. She will be running the Berlin Half Marathon on April 1 wearing a hoodie and carrying a packet of Skittles.
She said: “The injustice of the situation has alarmed me deeply. I cannot believe the apathy of those in positions of influence regarding Trayvon’s plight. I wish I could do more to raise awareness, really do feel powerless! But I’m hopeful that the collective surge of protest, whether tweets or marches, will have some impact and the family get justice.”
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