Trayvon Martin's parents visit Stephen Lawrence memorial
The parents of 17 year old Trayvon Martin arrived in London this morning, to thank the British people who have lent their support.
Among the many letters of condolence which they received was one from Doreen Lawrence, whose own son was killed in a racist attack in South London 19 years ago. The two families met today, at the memorial to Stephen’s death, united by a search for meaning, amid their personal grief.
A day to look back, as well as forward: a reminder of a young man’s killing that has become as totemic for America as Stephen Lawrence’s death was in Britain.
For the Martins, their grief is still raw: it’s been barely two months since the night when their son walked through a gated community in Sanford, Florida and was challenged by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. There was a confrontation. Screaming. Gunshots. By 7.25pm, Trayvon Martin, armed only with a packet of Skittles and a soft drink, was killed.
The initial police investigation was so cursory, that Zimmerman was barely asked any questions about the shooting, his alleged injuries barely examined, charges never brought. Police said there was no evidence to disprove his claim that he shot Martin in self-defence.
Amid the growing backlash, and the growing distress of the black community, hundreds of thousands of people began signing an online petition demanding Zimmerman’s arrest. Tapes of the 911 calls made on the night of the shooting emerged in the media. Finally the Justice Department launched its own investigation.
Barely a month after the shooting, Trayvon Martin had become a cause: a symbol not just of America’s dysfunctional relationship with race, and guns, but a powerful political statement. “I am Trayvon Martin” became a nationwide slogan, emblazoned on banners, T-shirts, bumper stickers.
Thousands of people took to the streets, holding rallies around the country to demand “Justice for Trayvon”. They wore hoodies, in tribute to the one the teenager was wearing the night he was shot: some brandished bags of Skittles. President Obama spoke publicly for the first time, calling for some national soul searching: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon”, he said.
The hoodie swiftly became a symbol in itself, worn by members of Congress, sporting stars, school kids. The rallies became known as the ‘Million Hoodie March’.
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