“I AM TRAYVON,” echoed voices across the country and in the City of Opalocka on the one month anniversary of the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death by volunteer neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, as Martin walked in the rain with a bag of Skittles, a can of Arizona brand iced tea and the hood of his jacket over his head, Sunday, February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida, where the youth had been visiting his father.
Monday, March 26, 2012, over 25,000 people of all races, ages and socio-economic levels arrived from every direction in the country to attend a rally at a park in Sanford, to support the Martin Family. In Opa-locka, Mayor Myra L. Taylor held a press conference at 10:00 AM in front of the Municipal Complex building, 780 Fisherman Street, to announce that the City (first known Municipality to bring forth a resolution) would unite with the chorus of institutions and individuals nationwide, to stand in support of the Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin.
“Trayvon is our son, our grandson, our brother… He NEVER had a chance at life. Law Makers must take a look at the ‘Stand- Your-Ground’ law that devalues human life,” asserted Mayor Taylor when referring to Florida’s controversial law which states, “A person may use deadly force in selfdefense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first.” One of the sponsors of the Florida law, Durell Peaden, in an interview with the Miami Herald commented, “The law does not say that a person has a right to confront another. When he (Zimmerman) said, ‘I’m following him,’ he lost his defense.” Peaden went on to insert that it sounded to him as if “Zimmerman went looking for trouble… and if he has a gun, that’s premeditated.” In defense of the law, Peaden summarized, “There’s nothing in the Florida law that allows him to follow someone with a **** gun.”
Like Taylor, other political figures are following the Martin case closely. In a television interview, Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D) said a hearing in Washington would be held to discuss if this was a Civil Rights violation, hate crime, profiling or stand-your-ground… and if the law needs to be amended. Mayor Taylor reiterated at the press conference that Zimmerman was “told by authority to cease pursuing the youth, at which point the trained Law Enforcement Officers should have been allowed to take over.”
28-year-old Zimmerman, a man of mixed ethnicity (White/Peruvian) and an aspiring police officer, at the time of the incident, notified the Sanford Police Department dispatcher that Martin looked suspicious, but Zimmerman continued to follow the teen after the police dispatcher specifically instructed him to stop the pursuit, divulging that an officer was on the way. Zimmerman reportedly has contacted police dozens of times over the years, several times describing the presence of a black male. On that night, subsequent to the chase, a fight, and the shooting, Zimmerman allegedly told police the young man came at him from behind; a statement the African-American community found hard to digest, given the fact that Zimmerman admitted to trailing Martin.
Standing in solidarity with Mayor Taylor during the conference were Opalocka City Commissioners Timothy Holmes and Gail Miller; along with former City of Miami Commissioner Rev. Richard P. Dunn, II; President of the African- American Council of Christian Clergy, Rev. Dr. Gregory Thompson; Former Opalocka Mayors John Riley and Rev. Joseph L. Kelley; Florida International Academy Principal Sonia Mitchell in addition to a number of other dignitaries, seniors, residents and City of Opa-locka staff who expressed outrage over the “useless, tragic slaying” of the unarmed youth.
Cellular phone records indicated that at the time Martin was walking, he was on a call right up to the moments before he was killed. The person on the other end of the phone said she told Martin to “RUN,” once he revealed he was being followed. She said she heard a voice ask, “What are you doing here,” followed by Trayvon asking, “Why are you following me?” The girl, whose parents ask for anonymity, said after the phone went out, “I called him again and he didn’t answer.”
“Create workshops and training programs to teach ‘our children’ how to react in a situation like the one Trayvon encountered,” Mayor Taylor called out to State Attorney Kathy Rundle. Sonia Mitchell reverberated the belief that it will take “people in power to change this situation.” She declared, “We don’t want to see any more of our children slaughtered in the street.”
Wearing a “hoodie,” holding a bag of candy and a can of ice tea, painting a symbolic visualization of Martin’s appearance on the night of the incident, at the conference,“ Commissioner Miller, declared, “Mr. Zimmerman is gonna get his time. Trayvon may not be here to see it, but we will be here to see it!” Holmes recalled a time in his youth when people were “running around with hoods (a different type) over their faces and heads, but…” he said, “today that has changed with education, they are smarter now,” referring to the high-tech forms of racism that many African-Americans now believe exist. Holmes said he will pray for the deceased (Martin), but also for the parents of the young man who committed the killing, because,” he continued, “if they have a heart, they will believe in justice too.”
“This is a sad and somber moment…It’s history repeating itself,” reminisced Rev. Richard P. Dunn in disbelief when drawing parallelisms to Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago who, during a visit with relatives in Mississippi, was murdered after reportedly speaking to a 21-year-old white woman. “No doubt in my mind that this (Martin’s confrontation) was racial profiling at its worst. It is the reason Trayvon Martin is dead and Zimmerman is walking around free,” avowed Dunn. “Not because he had a ‘hoodie’ and was a black man, but because he was a black man who had a ‘hoodie.’ LET’S NOT get it twisted… I AM TRAVON MARTIN,” Dunn cried out!
Former Opa-locka Mayor John Riley empathized with young Martin by sharing his experience on being stopped because he was black and driving a “suspicious vehicle (a luxury Lincoln).” Riley inquired, “What’s suspicious about that (pause), because I was driving it?”
Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announced he would convene a grand jury on April 10th to probe the case, which is being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to determine whether to charge Zimmerman. Mayor Taylor said, “It is important for the Community to remain calm, civil and orderly, but offer support in the form of our prayers and our presence as the investigation proceeds.” However, the Mayor adamantly concluded, “Justice must be served, otherwise, WE could ALL become Trayvon Martin!”