The Occupy Movement has just taken up Trayvon Martin’s cause. Martin was the Florida youth recently killed by George Zimmerman, a community watch member, for walking while black through Zimmerman’s gated community. The community is located in Sanford, Florida. Martin was visiting his father at his father’s girlfriend’s home at the time of the killing. Martin was rightfully walking the streets of that Community since his father’s girlfriend lived in the community.
It is noteworthy that Zimmerman, a mixed race man, had prior contact with law enforcement because of incidents in which he had acted violently or had posed a threat to another person. On the other hand, Martin, a young black male and a high school student of good standing, lacked a criminal record, was never a suspect in a crime, etc. Despite these differences and the fact that Martin had not committed a crime before Zimmerman shot and killed him, the Sanford Police Department exonerated Zimmerman for his killing of Martin. It did so because Zimmerman had appealed to Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground self-defense laws. Zimmerman claimed that Martin was a threat to him. Yet there is no sound evidence whatsoever indicating Martin threatened Zimmerman, anyone else or anyone’s property while he walked to his father’s girlfriend’s home. This lack of evidence makes Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin appear wholly unjustified. There is evidence supporting the claim that Zimmerman confronted Martin without police authorization.
At first glance, the Martin killing evokes images of racial profiling by the assailant, George Zimmerman, and the Sanford Police Department, while it also exposes the mindless brutality of a law that authorizes gun carriers to shoot-to-kill those individuals the gun holder believes to be a threat and wherever they feel threatened. Moreover, ambiguous evidence (an audibly distorted 911 call) exists which indicates the presence of a racial bias in Zimmerman during his confrontation with Martin. This bias, should it be proven to have existed at the time of Martin’s death, would undermine Zimmerman’s self-defense claims. It would also expose Zimmerman to manslaughter or second degree murder charges.
The Million Hoodie March was a collective expression of a demand for justice to be achieved in the Martin killing. But it was also more. The March gained in significance because it occurred in New York City (a place which specializes in racially motivated policing and low-consequences police brutality) and included the Occupy Movement as a significant element in the protest. The March not only affirmed prior protest actions that had occurred in Florida, as it was meant to do, it added to them. It thus registered more than a public’s disgust with racist violence; the protest also reflected the growth of a multi-class and multi-identity movement for justice in the United States. In the wake of this protest action critics of the Occupy Movement can no longer plausibly claim that a local Occupation is an instance of single-issue movement focused only on Wall Street. (Although, some have criticized the Occupy Movement for seeking to co-opt the Million Hoodie March. It appears that they find cross-movement solidarity troubling.) The March also shows the support of the Movement for Black American civil rights advocates and those committed to defending minorities from police harassment and discrimination. Anti-racism and the demand for social justice have much in common, of course, and the building of a cross-class and multi-identity movement is the goal pursued by most left protest movements.
In the end, the Million Hoodie March ought to be considered a positive development in struggle for justice in the United States. It reflected the strength of two important social movements while demanding justice in the Trayvon Martin killing.
The Million Hoodie March