Supporters Skeptical but Hopeful for Justice in Travon Martin Case on Anniversary of Murder

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Jason Lewis/Village Voice
A year removed from the murder of 17-year-old Travon Martin, hundreds of supporters took to Union Square yesterday, carrying candles and wearing hoodies, to stand in solidarity alongside Martin's parents on the anniversary of his death.

They demanded justice for Martin in the case against George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watchman who shot and killed the unarmed teenager in a gated community where Martin's father lived in Sanford, Fl. While demands for justice were loud and fierce, many in attendance acknowledged that the justice they'd like to see for Martin's death may never materialize if solely left up to the legal system.

"Jail time, that's justice, nothing less," Nicholas Heyward Sr., whose teenage son was killed by a rookie NYPD officer nearly 18 years ago, told the Voice. "The way that this system has operated in the past with all these other cases, I don't see any justice really coming out of that Zimmerman case."

His son, Nicholas Heyward Jr., was a 13-year-old honor student whom NYPD Housing Officer Brian George shot dead in the stairwell of a building at their home in the Gowanus Houses in Brooklyn. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes never indicted George, and his office concluded that the shooting occurred because George witnessed Heyward Jr. playing with a realistic-looking toy gun, (a plastic pop gun), in a darkly lit area, and reacted in a split-second in fear for his life

Hynes refused to reopen the case after glaring conflicts emerged between the DA office's official report and a deposition given by George two years later. Heyward Sr. says he's written and petitioned, to no avail over the years, to multiple mayors, police commissioners, and other public officials to review the case.

"My thing is that after 18 years of protesting, it's time for the people to organize and take these matters to the streets because there's no way that I can see we're going to get justice in the court system," Heyward said. "I'm hoping for the sake of the people that it does."

Just as George eluded punishment under the pretenses of a justified homicide, Zimmerman maintains that he shot Martin in self-defense. The murder occurred when Martin was heading back to his dad's house from a 7-Eleven, carrying a pack of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea while talking on the phone with his girlfriend. Zimmerman pegged Martin as suspicious, alerted police, then proceeded to defy police advisement not to pursue Martin on his own, leading to an encounter that resulted in the murder of Martin.

"Being black is not a crime. Being brown is not a crime. Being poor is not a crime. Wearing a hoodie is not a crime. Having Skittles is not a crime. Having iced tea is not a crime. Living is not a crime," City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who's been outspoken against racial profiling and the NYPD's practice of stop-and-frisk, said during yesterday's rally. "Waiting a year for justice is a crime. Having to have uproar, just for an indictment is a crime."

Williams was alluding to the fact that it took a massive outcry just to get the police to press charges against Zimmerman, who was permitted to go home on the night of the murder. Actor Jamie Foxx also showed up to lend support for the family and expressed equal bewilderment that Zimmerman wasn't immediately charged.

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Jason Lewis/Village Voice
Travon Martin's parents Tracy Martin (far left in blue with hoodie up) and Sybrina Fulton (left in black) during last night's vigil.
"All we're asking [for] is simplicity . . . allow the court system to work," Foxx said. "The things that baffled me the most is that someone can take someone else's life and go home."

Martin's father, Tracy Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, thanked those at the rally and others around the country for their support -- while unofficially declaring February 26 Hoodies Up Day.

"It's a sober day for us . . . It seems like yesterday that Travon was here. The wounds have not been healed but we're working towards healing [them], and we just want you all to know that we appreciate all the love and support," Martin's father said. "Continue to stay with us . . . until the day I die it will be Hoodies Up Day for me."

Zimmerman is set to stand trial on second-degree murder charges in June. Councilman Williams urged the powers-that-be to bring justice in the Martin case and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD to finally clean up the culture of racial profiling and police brutality that has long stained the department's ranks.

"We want justice and we want it now," Williams said. "Dr. King said riots [are] the language of the unheard. We are unheard . . . So, please us hear while we're calm because unheard people do things to be heard."


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5 comments
ceceliabarnett
ceceliabarnett

you are all alike bias zimmerman pursued the young man because of the color of his skin with gun in hand in a dark alley and then have the nerve to cry self defence what kind of animaals are you  had he went about his buisness as he was told the young man would have been aliveall who is defending that liar  and criminal should have the same thing happen to there child or family member then they would face reality  and know that was a crime he was not breaking and entering or commiting any crime   you all need to leave people alone  it is the same way people are beating up gay people just because of there sexual preference  you are not gods  leave people and let them go on with there life and not shorten it

tnewton2060
tnewton2060

The reactions from people that surround the Martin case are very interesting. People riot in the streets when a white guy shoots a black guy. What about when a black kid shoots a baby in the face like the one in Brunswick Georgia. I don't see anyone rioting about that. I think its reverse racism in a major way from every black person that takes part in it. I think racism in this country is being disquised by those who are most racist. I am disqusted by the populations that want what they call "justice". You don't even care about the facts. You just want to see Zimmerman imprisoned or killed because he is a white guy who shot a black guy. The ignorance...the bias...the prejudice...the racism. It's blatantly pathetic.

southerncannuck
southerncannuck

I think the writer is out of line calling this a murder, at least given that all the facts have not been heard yet. There has been much yellow journalism surrounding this case. This seems to just another notch in that stick.

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