NEW YORK – On Tuesday, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis will testify on Capitol Hill. The topic: “Stand Your Ground” laws. Sybrina Fulton and Lucia McBath will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The hearing, according to a notice on the Senate Judiciary Committee website is entitled “‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force.”
Tallahassee, Florida-based state attorney William Meggs, and Harvard Law School professor and director of the Criminal Justice Institute Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. are also expected to testify, along with a senior fellow from the Libertarian Cato Institute and John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D., President of the Crime Prevention Research Center in Swarthmore, PA.
Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin, whose shooting death and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, on second degree murder and manslaughter charges touched off more than a year of controversy regarding Florida’s “stand your ground” laws and similar laws across the country. (Zimmerman didn’t use “Stand Your Ground” as his defense, but it was referenced by one of the jurors in the case in interviews after the verdict, and it altered Florida’s jury instructions in cases like Zimmerman’s.)
A foundation founded by Fulton and Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is working to amend “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and in the more than 20 other states with similar laws. George Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense.
McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death on November 23, 2012 at a Jacksonville gas station as he sat in a car with three friends. Michael Dunn is expected to use the “Stand Your Ground” self defense law in his upcoming trial for Davis’ killing. Dunn is expected to go to trial in January.
The mother of Trayvon Martin spoke out Sunday against the stop-and-frisk police practice in New York City, saying neither police nor civilians have the right to stop someone because of their race. Critics say the stops target blacks and Hispanics who aren’t doing anything wrong. Earlier this week, a judge told New York City that its policy was racial discrimination. The city plans to appeal. “You can’t give people the authority, whether civilian or police officers the right to just stop somebody because of the color of their skin,” Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Over the past decade, New York police have stopped, questioned and sometimes patted down about 5 million people; 87 percent were black or Hispanic. About 10 percent of the stops spur an arrest or summons. Police find weapons a fraction of the time. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended the use of stop and frisk Sunday and said violent crimes would increase if the practice were abandoned. “The losers in this, if this case is allowed to stand, are people who live in minority communities,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Fulton’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said the stop and frisk policy targeted people by race and noted it was still being used as the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech approached. “It actually takes us away from his poignant words of, ‘I dreamed my children would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin,’” Crump said. Fulton has said neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman “got away with murder” in the 2012 killing of her son, largely because of Florida’s self-defense law.
Protesters had been occupying part of the Capitol in Tallahassee, calling for an examination of the Florida law since Zimmerman was acquitted last month. Zimmerman claimed self-defense in shooting the 17-year-old Martin during a fight; Martin’s supporters say Zimmerman profiled and followed him because Martin was black.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in dozens of cities today to mourn Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot to death in a confrontation with a neighborhood watch volunteer early last year, and to add their voices to a debate on race that his death has set off. The gatherings began around noon EST at federal buildings across the country. They came a week after George Zimmerman was acquitted by a court in Florida of Mr. Martin’s killing; days after angry protests erupted in the wake of that verdict; and hours after President Obama said, in a heartfelt address, that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
Mr. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, addressing dozens of people outside the federal courthouse in Miami, said, “I vowed to Trayvon when he was laying in his casket that I would use every ounce of energy in my body to seek justice for him.
“I will continue to fight for Trayvon until the day I die,” he added. “Not only will I be fighting for Trayvon, I will be fighting for your child as well.” At a rally in New York, over cries of “We’re all Trayvon Martin,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the organizers of the gatherings, told a crowd of hundreds that Mr. Martin’s death should prompt a movement. Mr. Sharpton said that he wanted to ensure an aggressive federal investigation of Mr. Zimmerman and fight against Florida’s broad self-defense laws. “Last Saturday we cried,” he said, “but this Saturday we march.”
Ira Acree spent two hours passing out fliers in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago, hoping to spread the word about a “Justice for Trayvon” vigil at noon Saturday — one of at least 100 planned in cities across the nation. On the way back to his car, Acree, a pastor, spotted a television in the lobby of the parking garage. A crowd had gathered in front, as if “watching the football game,” Acree said. President Obama was speaking.
In his first comments since a six-woman jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Obama spoke frankly and reflectively, relating his experiences with race and racial profiling. “Trayvon Martin could have been me,” the President said. Obama’s earnest words moved Acree almost to tears. “I just think that the president’s words may help whites across the nation at least understand us,” Acree said. “And be a little bit more emphathetic toward our actions tomorrow.” Acree chairs the board of a social justice group in Chicago called the Leader’s Network, which is helping organize Saturday’s vigil.
The 100-city “Justice for Trayvon” vigils, which the Rev. Al Sharpton announced Tuesday on the steps of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., will be staged mostly at federal court buildings across the country. In California, rallies are scheduled in Los Angeles, Oakland, Palmdale, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco and the Monterey County city of Seaside. Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Martin’s brother, Jahvaris, will attend a rally in New York City, along with Sharpton. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is attending a vigil in Miami.
Jahvaris Fulton has a great opportunity on his hands. The older brother of Trayvon Martin is currently serving as a congressional intern for Florida Representative Frederica Wilson. Her office confirmed the news to NBC. Fulton, according to his Twitter page, attends Florida International University in Miami, FL.
Wilson’s office also said that Fulton is a part of the 5000 Roll Models of Excellence Project. The project, founded by Wilson 20 years ago, is a drop out prevention and mentoring program that serves the needs of at-risk boys in Miami-Dade schools. Good look to the young Mr. Fulton. It would be great if both he and Rachel Jeantel ended up working in law enforcement, hopefully fighting the injustices that were so evident in his brother’s case.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Trayvon Martin’s parents plan to participate in separate vigils Saturday. Martin’s mother and her son, Sybrina and Jahvaris Fulton, will join Al Sharpton outside New York Police Department headquarters. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is set to be at a similar event at a federal courthouse in Miami. Sharpton’s National Action Network is planning rallies in 100 cities to press for federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. The Justice Department is investigating whether Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil rights when he shot the 17-year-old during a confrontation last year in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense. He was acquitted last Saturday of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.