The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has inspired both sympathy for his family and ignited outrage against what many people see as a failure of justice. Richmonders–from a local pastor, VCU student, and the mayor–weigh-in on this national issue.
On February 26th, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. Sanford Police reported that Zimmerman, 28, was found armed with a handgun, standing over Martin’s body with a bloody nose and a wound on the back of his head. Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense. There were no weapons on Martin’s person, only a pack of Skittles and can of iced tea.
Many people across the country, and in Richmond, have decried Zimmerman’s actions and mourn the loss of a young man gunned down. Below are a few local reactions.
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Pastor Lance Watson, St. Paul’s Baptist Church
Q What has been the general reaction among people you’ve talked to, either in your congregation or around town, to the death of Trayvon Martin?
A It has been one of shock, frustration, and anger.
Q What is, in your opinion, the main reason why so many people across the country have been both saddened and angered by Martin’s death?
A It appears to represent such a miscarriage of justice. A young, unarmed teen is gunned down by someone who said that he felt threatened, although police asked [Zimmerman] during the dispatch call not to pursue the young man. People are angry because the shooter was not arrested and there is a widespread belief that if Trayvon (African American) had been Terrance (Caucasian American), no matter who the shooter was he would have been detained, arrested, and arraigned.
QWhat was the reason for titling last Sunday’s service “Hoodies Up?”
A To bring public attention and awareness to three critical issues:
- The need for justice in the Trayvon Martin case.
- The need for our entire culture to evaluate our use of stereotypes and to highlight the negative impact of the bias and prejudices that we carry, particularly related to people of color.
- To highlight the need to value all life, regardless of a person’s ethnicity AND to express similar outrage and disgust when persons of the same race kill one another.
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Mayor Dwight Jones
This is a deeply troubling situation that demands a thorough investigation. As an African-American male and the father of two sons, I know the challenges that Black men have to face day in and day out. Our country always has to stand for justice and what’s right. I’m praying for a just outcome for Trayvon Martin, his family and everyone who has been impacted by this tragedy.
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Cordell Hayes, Student, Vice-President of the Hip-Hop Organization of VCU
Hundreds of students and Richmonders assembled at VCU to call for justice in the Trayvon Martin case. VCU student Cordell Hayes was on hand to photograph and take part in the event.
QWhy did you decide to take part in the VCU rally on Monday night?
A A friend of mine asked me to take pictures of the rally because they were trying to get aerial shots of a mass crowd in support of Trayvon. Ultimately my involvement with the rally outside of the Commons was to be a part of a bigger message: that it is not only Trayvon’s family that is affected but also a lot of people across the country.
QWhy do you think so many people across the country are so saddened and angered by what happened in Florida?
A The entire situation behind his death seems unjust. Well I shouldn’t use the word “seems” because it is unjust. A life was taken in the midst of a trivial situation–trivial in the sense that shooting someone as self defense was uncalled for especially when the other person is not armed with a weapon. I think that is why so many people across the country have collectively agreed that not only is the situation sad, but it doesn’t overtly make sense as to why he was killed. People want answers, they want closure, and they want somebody to stand up and rightfully take responsibility for what happened and how the case is being lazily handled. People across the country that are saddened by this are ultimately scared that Trayvon’s voice will get lost.
QWhat has been the reaction that you’ve seen from people about the case from those associated with the Hip-Hop Organization of VCU? From the student population in general?
A The member’s of the Student Hip-Hop Organization at VCU feel the same way everybody has felt, it’s just really sad–like there is a quiet, composed anger within everyone who has supported this case. I feel uneasy at the thought that someone was killed and with the way police are handling it. From the student population in general, the turnout on Monday was sort of a testament to how people on campus feel. And not only students, some administrators as well, because the rally was put together in a matter of days, and in order to do something on campus you have to have their support and agreement.
QAlthough the death of Trayvon is a tragedy, do you see any positive repercussions that have come from his death?
A Yeah, the fact that people are coming together to support a national cause–that’s always positive. I just hope that none of this is done in vain or is forgotten because it happens everyday. Hopefully this gives courage for others to speak up in an organized way to actually make change. On Monday night a couple of people at the rally shared stories of how they’ve personally encountered unjust situations, and it was good for us to hear that. But it’s mind boggling–like it absolutely makes no sense to why we are living in a modern society dealing with fears built upon ignorance and hastily reacting upon them with killing; and that goes for any situation not just Trayvon’s. As a nation we’re scared of the wrong things and as a nation we should know better–now more people are getting hip.