Death Of Trayvon Martin Strikes Chord In Chicago
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UPDATED 03/26/12 8:33 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin last month in Florida, at the hands of a member of the local neighborhood watch, has been sparking outrage across the nation, including Chicago, where protesters and public officials spoke out about the shooting over the weekend.
Martin, who was unarmed, was killed in Sanford, Fla., last month by community watch representative George Zimmerman, who has claimed he acted in self-defense. Monday marks the one-month anniversary of the incident.
No charges have been approved in the death of the teen.
At St. Sabina Church on Sunday morning, the Rev. Michael Pfleger led a group of youth in hoodies in a call and response chant.
“I am, Trayvon Martin,” they said.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson preached at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, Fla., on Sunday.
“How do we go from a moment to a movement that creates fundamental change?” he said.
Meanwhile, the shooting has placed increased scrutiny on Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” self-defense law, which was passed in 2005 and permits residents to use deadly force if they “reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
The chief sponsor of that law has said it does not apply to Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said changes are needed in attitude and the law to prevent another shooting of the type that left Trayvon dead.
At an unrelated event on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus Saturday, Durbin said he has seen no justification for the shooting.
“The only weapon he was carrying was a bag of Skittles,” Durbin said. “The only thing that he could have done to raise suspicions was walk black.”
Chicago attorney Lewis Myers Jr. said a murder or manslaughter charge seems to be warranted in the case.
“It sounds like it. I mean you know it sounds like it to me, and unfortunately, bad judgment sometimes carries with it severe punishment,” Myers said.
Meantime, some in Chicago’s African American community are asking a question: in light of the protests over Trayvon’s death: where is same level of outrage over the killings of other black teenagers, murders often committed by their peers?
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Earlier this weekend, CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley was at the latest demonstration in Chicago, where protestors compared Trayvon Martin to a black Chicago teenager murdered in the south 57 years ago.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the Loop on Saturday, demanding justice for Trayvon. They rallied at Daley Plaza, protesting the killing, and lack of police action, in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
“He’s an African American young man, that’s walking around in a hoodie, that has Skittles and an iced tea. That’s my son every single day,” protester Denota Rawls said.
Protesters in Chicago drew parallels to the murder of black Chicago teen Emmett Till 57 years ago.
“What happened to Emmett Till was the enforcement, by some local vigilantes, who were supporting the unwritten laws of Jim Crow,” Occupy Chicago activist Anton Ford said.
In 1955, Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, when he was accused of whistling at a white woman. He was abducted him from his home. His mutilated, beaten body was later discovered in a river.
Till’s cousin, Airicka Gordon-Taylor, said when she heard about Trayvon Martin’s death, the parallels to the Emmett Till case stood out immediately.
“Both were egregious acts of violence towards two young boys, two young black boys that did not deserve to die and have that fate,” she said.
Till’s mother displayed his beaten body in an open casket, triggering the outrage of a nation.
“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a very long way to go,” Gordon-Taylor said.
Trayvon’s parents have endorsed the nationwide protests, calling them the only thing preventing authorities from sweeping the case under the rug.
Others in the African-American community are upset for another reason. They believe the same attention and outrage is missing when other black kids are killed; many right here in Chicago, often by their own peers.
CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports activists listed off the names of more than 100 teenagers who have been killed by gunfire in Chicago in the past year, as a bell sounded to mark the victims’ names.
The moment came during a college fair held by the Black Star Project for young minority students.
Philip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project, said, “As we honor Trayvon, we also want to honor these young children who nobody is marching for, these young people who nobody is holding a protest for.”
At St. Sabina Catholic earlier in the weekend, there was a statue in the sanctuary, meant to represent Trayvon. Like the youth in the pews on Sunday, the statue was wrapped in a hoodie like the one Trayvon was wearing when he was shot. The statue was also holding what Trayvon held as he was killed – a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
Pfleger said martin’s death is part of a larger picture.
“I’m praying in this moment of Trayvon Martin, we connect the dots,” Pfleger said. “If you really honor Trayvon Martin, what are you going to do differently tomorrow about violence? What child are you going to reach out to? What youth center? What school? What will you do differently to fight the violence?”
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said, “This is something that’s been building for years, and it really points out two issues in this country that people have been afraid to take on for a long time. And the first thing is race and crime, and the second thing is guns.”
McCarthy said the shooting of Trayvon Martin points out the dangers of allowing people, like neighborhood watch civilians, to legally carry weapons.
McCarthy pointed out police officers train for a year to use their weapons, and they still sometimes make mistakes.
Durbin also questioned applying a self-defense law to this case.
“This notion that anyone can carry a gun and declare themselves a security official and roam the streets of any town in America should be thought through carefully.” Durbin said. “This man who was involved in this had four months of training. I have no idea if it was any good or not. He wouldn’t even follow the directions of a dispatcher who said to leave this young man alone.”
Durbin said the next steps in the investigation are best left to the independent prosecutor looking into the case.