US Politics

The Trayvon Martin Case: When Tragedies Become Politicized…

The story of the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has evolved into a nation-wide discussion. Most readers are probably familiar with the series of events: on February 26 Trayvon Martin is found dead in Stanford, Florida, killed by a 28 year old neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. The police believed Zimmerman’s story, that he had shot the teenager in self defense, without much investigation. Over the following days the parents of Trayvon call for Zimmerman’s arrest but the police refuse. The situation escalates and heavy criticism is laid on Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee for mishandling the case, and he is eventually forced to temporally step down. Meanwhile Zimmerman still hasn’t been charged (partly  due to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law), and the campaign for his arrest has grown across the country. Over 900,000 people have signed an online petition for his arrest and events called “Million Hoodie Marches” made thousands take to the streets.

New York State Senator Eric Adams wears a hoodie to show solidarity for the death of Trayvon Martin

Initially the media ignored Trayvon’s murder, but as soon as outrage started to build, coverage started full force and it made the issue even stickier. Since Zimmerman was injured in the conflict, cable news shows debated ad infinitum whether he acted in self defense or not. Was he racist, or did he want to play the hero? Geraldo Rivera even went as far as to blame the teenager’s hoodie for putting him in harm’s way (inadvertently causing a spike in the hoodie’s popularity). But that’s not all. Zimmerman has received death threats and has gone in to hiding. As a response the New Black Panthers have put out a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman’s “capture.” Most recently film director Spike Lee tweeted, incorrectly, Zimmerman’s address, making a neighborhood woman a target for those angry at the police’s inaction.

But for the most part this discussion was a social issue, and it only crossed over into the political world when President Obama was questioned about it at an unrelated event. When listening to Obama’s response it’s clear that he’s on tenterhooks, trying to balance an emotional response without diffintively weighing into the issue. But his mere mentioning of Trayvon’s’s death opened a can of political worms that are doomed to wriggle across the political sphere until some sense of closure is obtained.

Read more after the jump.

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