Three years post-Trayvon: What has changed?

Wikimedia Commons/David Shankbone

On Feb. 26, 2012, supposed “Neighborhood Watchman” George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black man, as Martin walked home from visiting a convenience store in Sanford, Fla. The case ignited questions about racial profiling, vigilantism and “stand your ground” laws. On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of both the second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. Despite national and even international attention to the case, one has to wonder what has really changed in the three years since the murder of Trayvon Martin.

The murder of black men by police or their wannabes has not stopped.

This is a mere sample of cases that occurred after the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Sixteen-year-old Kimani Gray was shot by two plainclothes officers in Brooklyn, N.Y., as he walked home from a birthday party on March 9, 2013. The two men who killed him claim he had a gun, but no weapon was found at the scene. Three of the seven bullets that penetrated Gray’s body entered from the back, suggesting he was moving away, not threatening the officers. No criminal charges were brought against the assailants.

Randall Kerrick, a Charlotte, N.C., police officer, shot and killed former Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University football star Jonathan Ferrell as he sought police assistance after an automobile accident on Sept. 14, 2013. Kerrick was not charged for Ferrell’s murder.

On Dec. 2, 2014, 24-year-old father of four Rumain Brisbon was killed when an officer mistook his bottle of pills for a gun.

Just seconds after seeing 12-yearold Tamir Rice at a park in Cleveland on Nov. 22, 2014, an officer shot and killed him. While Rice did have a BB gun, video footage seems to show that the officers arrived at the scene and were not threatened but instead decided to pull the trigger.

Unarmed Akai Gurley, 28, was shot in the dark stairwell of an East New York housing project on Nov. 20, 2014. Even Police Commissioner William Bratton has called Gurley a “complete innocent.”

Officer Daniel Pantaleo killed 43-year-old Eric Garner by inflicting a prohibited chokehold when Garner dared to speak out about being continually targeted.

Supposedly, Victor White III shot himself while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser in Iberia Parish, La., on March 22, 2014. Yet reports show that he had to have been Harry Houdini reincarnated to make that move — far more likely is that he was shot by officers.

Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, was shot by police as he fled armed men who had attempted to rob his bodega. The Bronx District Attorney did not find the officers at fault.

And of course, Officer Darrin Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., was not indicted. Since Brown was killed, 14 black teens have been killed by police officers, according to a Nov. 25, 2014 article on the Daily Beast.

It’s not just black men who suffer from this official or quasi-official violence. On Feb. 16, 2014, 47-year-old African-American Yvette Smith was killed when she opened the door to officers responding to a domestic violence call at her home.

George Zimmerman has not been charged.

Zimmerman has been arrested mul tiple times since being acquitted for the murder of Trayvon, most recently for aggravated assault and domestic violence with a weapon. Zimmerman was accused of domestic violence in 2013 but no charges were brought.

“Stand your ground” laws remain. 

Although Attorney General Eric Holder stated that it was time to question “stand your ground” laws, no state has repealed its law. In fact, states like Georgia and Florida have considered expansions of such protections. In Florida alone, at least 26 children and teens have been killed in “stand your ground” cases since Trayvon’s death. Research by the Urban Institute has found that in states with such laws, white-on-black homicides are 354 times more likely to be ruled justified as white-on-white homicides.

Three years post-Trayvon, little has changed except there is now a nationwide movement to fix this. I remain hopeful based on the courageous organizing I see occurring in most of our cities. For instance, peace and justice activists are working with affected communities to organize the first Truth Telling Weekend in St. Louis, Mo., the weekend of March 13 to 15, 2015. Rather than simply expressing outrage, these folks are acting to bring people together to discuss solutions. Really, it’s time for change.


This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice