Trayvon Martin’s Death Sparks Heated Debate

Brit Felsen-Parsons ’12

Photo courtesy of csmonitor.com

Recent comments made by President Barack Obama about the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida catapulted this top news story into the national and international scene, sparking an intense reevaluation of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and claims of racial profiling.

The teen was walking to his father’s finance’s house on February 26 after a trip to the convenience store when he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman claimed he shot in self-defense—despite the fact that Martin was “armed” with only a bag of Skittles and an iced tea, according to police.  Authorities have declined to arrest Zimmerman, although a grand jury is scheduled to convene April 10.  Zimmerman’s family claims that he has been wrongly labeled a racist.

President Obama praised Governor Rick Scott’s decision to create a task force to review “stand your ground,” also saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”  Trayvon’s parents said in a statement that they were deeply moved by President Obama’s comments and that they were “humbling,” and “made us wonder: If his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious, too?”

Some Florida lawmakers have said it was time to revisit the 2005 law that eliminated the provision requiring individuals in danger outside of their homes to first attempt to retreat before meeting force with force.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who signed the bill into law, has stated that he does not believe the law applies to this case: “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”

Police arrested a man Friday who had made written threats to kill Sanford’s police chief, who temporarily stepped down from his role the day before, and many have said that Trayvon Martin’s death has only increased the African-American community’s distrust of the police force.  The implications of the case continue to shake not only Sanford, Florida, but also the entire country, as the debate rages and nationwide protests are organized.