In a few weeks, Trayvon Martin went from a nameless shooting victim to the symbol of the ever-present racial divide in the U.S. It was a simple story that the country watched with rapt attention: Would the 17-year-old’s killer – a self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman – be jailed for shooting the unarmed boy? Would “justice” be served for the young black boy in the gray hoodie?
You had two sides and a clear line between. Supporters of the arrest insisted that Zimmerman had no grounds for killing the boy. Opponents of the arrest argued that he was defending himself in a situation where he felt threatened. Well, Zimmerman was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder. Does that mean either side won? Not quite.
First, it too a lot to get Zimmerman arrested. A whole lot. Millions of Americans donned gray hoodies, bought Skittles and Iced Tea and swapped their Facebook profile with the ubiquitous image of Trayvon. They kept this case in the consciousness of the entire world for weeks. That is democracy in action. That is people exercising their will to challenge an institution.
It was clear that something was going to happen. We wonder how much of the arrest was actually justice and how much was the result of growing pressure to have something done in the little town of Sanford, Fla.
Either way, it is ridiculous that it took 44 days to come to the decision for action. There should be an investigation into the connections Zimmerman has with law enforcement and government through his father, who was a magistrate judge. A police chief stepped down “temporarily” rather than issue the arrest order.
It is surprising that there has been no word on the reasons the Sanford Police’s stories don’t necessarily add up.
The department claims that it made no arrests, yet there is footage from the Sanford Jail where Zimmerman is clearly in custody. It doesn’t take a dark pair of glasses and a career as a pianist to see that. If someone has their nose broken, they have blood on them. So, that pretty much throws out the argument that Zimmerman was attacked.
The motives remain murky. Was it a race-based crime? Was it stupid, self-righteous vigilantism? And the public, which has heard the 911 recordings of someone crying for help and read about Zimmerman’s fractious past, remains fervent that something be done. Our question is really what is next? Will we ever really know why this teenager died on that cold night just weeks after his birthday?