Florida's Trayvon problem: Boycotts, marches and anger

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 4/12/2012, 12:54 p.m.

Calling on a tried-and-tested tool of the Civil Rights Movement, activists and elected officials alike are now considering a series of boycotts in the state of Florida. Boycotts have long been used as a nonviolent response to incidents that stirred up the Black community, the most famous and influential thus far being Dr. Martin Luther King's Montgomery Boycott, which began in 1955 and was inspired by Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of a bus. The boycott lasted 381 days.

"The racists in this country still do not respect who we are," said activist and cultural artist Camille Yarbrough. "So we have more work to do. We must remind them. What was the result of the Montgomery Bus Boycott? Huh? We must set the bar of justice. Always."

Activists and rally organizers and participants say the Martin case has shaken the nation, putting racism, white privilege and law enforcement bias squarely on front pages across the country.

When news broke on Monday that special prosecutor Angela Corey wouldn't take the case to a grand jury, the nation gasped, and broadcast talking heads and bloggers weighed in on what it meant.

"No one should be surprised. So much for post-racial America," said Eddie Ellis, president of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. "The state prosecutor's decision not to seek a grand jury investigation in the Trayvon Martin case is business as usual in cases that involve white people shooting and killing Black people.

"The U.S. Supreme Court once said that Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect. Nothing has changed. Why are we surprised? Garvey told us, history is unkind to weak people. And, equally important, Brother Minister Malcolm X reminds us, justice will only come when we stop singing and start swinging."

"I think it's actually a smart move by the prosecutor," said Nova Felder, an educator at Medgar Evers College. "I believe she knows the racist climate in Florida and is taking into account the notoriety of the case. No one in America does not know about this case, so it would be hard to convene a grand jury at this point that has not formulated some sort of opinion. It's a shrewd but good move; she knows if she does not move to charge him with some sort of manslaughter and hate crime, the backlash will rival, or most likely surpass, that of the Rodney King verdict."

On Monday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement that his National Action Network will announce a collective strategy at their annual convention taking place this week in Washington, D.C., as they will be joined by the parents of Martin, who "will meet for the first times the families of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell as we talk about what we are going to do to correct these inequalities."

On February 26, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain Zimmerman, a white Hispanic man, fatally shot Martin,17, in the Florida town of Sanford. Numerous reports have Zimmerman virtually stalking Martin then getting into a confrontation that ended with Martin lying dead from a gunshot wound. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, saying that Martin punched him.

Zimmerman recently launched a website where he declared, among other things, "I was involved in a life-altering event that led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and, ultimately, my entire life.

"This website's sole purpose is to ensure my supporters they are receiving my full attention without any intermediaries."

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump replied in a broadcast interview that "Trayvon experienced a life-ending event," and that Zimmerman is still alive to be able to talk about his perceived loss.