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Philly student activists fight to pass Trayvon's Law

Photo: Azim Siddiqui

by Mark McHugh

Youth United for Change members have been working hard this summer organizing community members in the fight for public education. But last weekend they took a stand alongside members of the Florida activist group Dream Defenders to protest the controversial verdict in the George Zimmerman trial and fight for passage of the Trayvon Martin Act, also known as “Trayvon’s Law.”  

Twenty-five YUC members took part in a sit-in with the Dream Defenders, an organization with seven chapters throughout Florida that confronts systemic inequalities among black and brown youth. Together, the group of youth activists sat inside the state Capitol building in Tallahassee for three consecutive days to call for Gov. Rick Scott and the state legislature to enact the Trayvon Martin Act, which would repeal the Stand Your Ground law, ban racial profiling, and end the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges for the killing of the unarmed, 17-year-old Martin. 

Though YUC typically advocates on issues that are directly specific to public education, YUC member and Philadelphia High School for Girls senior Christa Rivers said members don’t hesitate to also make their voices heard concerning politically and socially relevant topics.

“We were all really upset at the verdict,” said Rivers.

Rivers added that the circumstances and outcome of the case set the stage for the criminalization of kids and creates a pipeline that “sets students up for the prison system.”

Rivers said that there is no evidence that Trayvon’s Law will be passed or even addressed by the state legislature, but that any support will help the cause in fighting for justice for all black and brown youth.

“Our voices will be heard, at least from the people that were there,” she said.

Mark McHugh is an intern at the Notebook.

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Comments (15)

Submitted by Miriam Mata (not verified) on August 2, 2013 12:04 pm
Letting misinterpretations stand is the hallmark of the media’s coverage of this story. For instance, nowhere in NPR’s report did Allen mention that Zimmerman’s defense team never mentioned Florida’s “stand your ground” law. They argued traditional self-defense. The decision not to arrest Zimmerman in the first place wasn’t about that law either, despite widespread insistence that it was. Much has been made of the fact that the judge’s instructions to the jury included the phrase “right to stand his ground,” without noting that that is part of a standard jury instruction. As prosecutor John Guy declared, “This case is not about standing your ground.” http://www.nationalreview.com/article/354794/bending-trayvon-martin-trag...
Submitted by Geoffrey (not verified) on August 2, 2013 12:35 pm
1) You actually have to open the link to realize that these are the words of Jonah Goldberg. 2) Here is a link to an article by Patricia Williams suggesting that Zimmerman's defense was predicated on criminalizing the actual victim. This article also reveals that Stand Your Ground conviction rates are racially biased: http://www.thenation.com/article/175547/monsterization-trayvon-martin?pa.... 3) Here is a link to a blog authored by a Philadelphia school teacher. The articles about the Trayvon case on this blog pretty much proves Williams' point: http://chalkandtalk.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/trayvon-martin-and-violence...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2013 1:44 pm
How can Zimmerman claim self defense when he was stalking and attacking a kid walking home from the store? Trayvon was the one exercising self defense.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2013 10:36 am
Because he never touched the kid and Trayvon was bashing the back of his skull into concrete?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2013 1:58 pm
The key question is this - if you believe that Trayvon was beating Zimmerman (which in an of itself seems unlikely) but if he was - would Trayvon have been able to do that if Zimmerman had not followed him? If Zimmerman had simply remained in his car, stayed in contact with the police and done what neighborhood watch should do, then the MURDER would not have occured.
Submitted by Miriam Mata (not verified) on August 2, 2013 12:37 pm
Geoffrey You are right, I have the habit of posting other people articles with the link and paste some words from it, sorry for that. I'm not a lawyer so I depend on links from other people. Here are two related to the issue. Florida lawmakers stand by Stand Your Ground law By Miami Herald (FL) August 1, 2013 12:25 pm http://www.gopusa.com/news/2013/08/01/florida-lawmakers-stand-by-stand-y... What liberal media won't tell you -- blacks benefit most from Stand Your Ground laws http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/07/31/what-liberal-media-wont-tell-b...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2013 3:37 pm
Wow! It's not bad enough that you have a bunch of shrieking adults claiming victimhood-now we have to listen to another generation of uninformed, biased, racist boobs claim to know how things work in the leagal system. The cacophony is deafening, drowning out intelligent, civil discourse.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2013 5:39 pm
This effort by these young people, although noble, is misinformed. Zimmerman was not found innocent. He was found not guilty of second degree murder because the District Attorney unwisely attempted to prosecute Zimmerman for second degree murder under Florida law. Second degree murder required the prosecution to prove Zimmerman had a depraved mind. There was no evidence available to prove that. The prosecution should have accusd Zimmerman of manslaughter from the begining of the trial instead of the 11th hour. Zimmeran is factually not guilty of second degree muder. Prosecution with the manslaughter charge may have yielded different results. R from Philly
Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 3, 2013 10:52 am
I am proud to hear about our Philadelphia public school students and their commitment to justice! Way to go!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 3, 2013 11:46 am
I don't pretend to have followed the case closely but if it's true that Zimmerman was ordered by the police to stay in his car, he should have done that and the further events would not have occurred.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 3, 2013 10:49 pm
is that the way it is at the airports, as well, ban profiling, really- so that criminals will have another alibi? move to another country and see if you can get away with your profiling ban elsewhere !
Submitted by Christopher Paslay (not verified) on August 5, 2013 4:26 pm
As “Justice for Trayvon” rallies pop-up in cities across America over the acquittal of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, a relevant fact central to the outcome of the trial has been universally ignored: that Trayvon Martin assaulted Zimmerman, striking, straddling, and then beating the Hispanic man to the point where Zimmerman feared for his life. One juror has stated publicly that she had “no doubt that George feared for his life,” and that “his heart was in the right place.” These statements—and the jury’s verdict (a verdict that former President Jimmy Carter agrees with)—were made after six women jurors considered all the evidence in the three-week long trial, including testimonies from over 50 witnesses, analysis of the bullet wound in Martin’s chest that showed that he was on top of Zimmerman, pictures of Zimmerman’s broken nose and lacerations to his scalp, 911 calls from panicked neighbors, and Zimmerman’s own video account of the incident, among many other things. Yet somehow these facts and all the trial evidence gets pushed aside by the “Justice for Trayvon” folk. The propagandistic narrative of an innocent young African American boy coming home from a 7-Eleven with Skittles and an iced tea who was stalked and murdered in cold blood through no fault of his own continues to be put forward. The gaping difference between the trial evidence and the narrative of Martin supporters—which now officially includes U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice—is quite alarming. When young people commit criminal acts—such as assault, robbery, drug possession, and weapons infractions—it is difficult for some people to hold them accountable. This is especially the case when these teens are African Americans, because doing so is politically incorrect and somehow unjustly blaming “the victims” for their problems. Take the Philadelphia student activist group Youth United for Change, for example. In January of 2011, YUC published the report “Zero Tolerance in Philadelphia: Denying Educational Opportunities and Creating a Pathway to Prison,” which argued that the Philadelphia School District’s harsh discipline policies were turning innocent youth into criminals, especially minorities. In a nutshell, the study absolved chronic rule-breakers of basic responsibility for their own behavior and portrayed violent and unruly students as powerless victims caught in an oppressive disciplinary system; one of the more controversial claims was that the presence of police officers and metal detectors in schools was causing minority students to act out. The euphemism “kids will be kids” was used in defense of the report’s findings by a number of members of the Philadelphia public school community. But the violence facing Philadelphia public schools at the time was a little bit more than simply “kids being kids.” Consider these facts: From 2005-06 through 2009-10, the district reported 30,333 serious incidents. There were 19,752 assaults, 4,327 weapons infractions, 2,037 drug and alcohol related violations, and 1,186 robberies. . . . To continue reading, click here: http://chalkandtalk.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/trayvon-martin-and-violence...
Submitted by Christopher Paslay (not verified) on August 5, 2013 4:41 pm
Many people believe that the tragedy—or the crime—was that Zimmerman profiled Martin as a criminal, which is what Martin supporters insist eventually led to the boy’s death. But legally speaking, this was not the case, which is why Zimmerman was acquitted. According to the law, it is not illegal to watch someone from your car, or to get out and follow them; if it were, news reporters, paparazzi, private investigators, and single men interested in courting attractive women would all be behind bars. According to the law (and the jury’s verdict), Zimmerman following Martin was not reckless or irresponsible enough to set in motion the events that eventually led to Martin’s death, which is why Zimmerman was found not guilty of manslaughter. The act that led to Martin’s eventual death was when Martin decided to strike and attack Zimmerman, pound his head on the cement, and to put the Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in a position where he feared for his life. Remember, when Zimmerman approached Martin, Martin could have done any one of the following: walked or ran away; went into his house; or kept a safe distance and tried to communicate. According to the evidence and the verdict of the jury, he did none of them. He chose to attack Zimmerman, an act that directly led to his own death. But it is easier for Martin supporters to absolve Martin of all responsibility for his death. Like YUC’s report “Zero Tolerance,” which absolves violent Philadelphia school students of responsibility for their behavior in classrooms, Martin was simply a “kid being a kid.” A kid, mind you, who allegedly called Zimmerman a racist name (creepy-ass-cracker); a kid who was suspended from school not once but three times; a kid who was caught with a marijuana pipe and a baggie with drug residue; a kid who was kicked out of school for graffiti after he was caught with a “burglary tool” and a bag full of women’s jewelry; a kid who had texts on his Twitter account describing an attack on a bus driver; a kid who had a video on his cellphone of two homeless men fighting over a bicycle; a kid who had pictures of underage nude females on his cellphone, as well as pictures of marijuana plants and a hand holding a semi-automatic pistol; a kid who was staying at his father’s girlfriend’s house because he’d been kicked out of his mother’s house for getting into trouble; and a kid who, according to the verdict of the jury, chose to attack and beat a Hispanic man mixed-martial-arts-style instead of simply walking away and going into his house which was not even 70 yards away. This is the kid whom President Obama has made his surrogate son, and the kid whose memory Obama has stated we need to “honor.” Is Trayvon Martin’s death a tragedy? Absolutely. Did George Zimmerman make mistakes and bad decisions? No doubt. But so did Trayvon Martin.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 5, 2013 6:24 pm
Martin was a teenager and Zimmerman was an adult. It makes a significant difference in judgment and accountability. There is a good reason we do not prosecute juveniles as we prosecute adults. Zimmerman may have been in fear of his life, but obviously he wasn't so far gone that he couldn't find and shoot his gun, and subsequently get up and walk away. Stalking is a crime. Read the transcripts of Zimmerman's call and you will see that he wasn't just following Martin. He was pursuing him in order to arrest him, which he had no authority or even evidence to do.
Submitted by gabriela (not verified) on June 4, 2014 7:13 am
I will feel ashamed for that trial for a very very long time. I congratulate these young people for their spirit and determination. They are very special and deserve all our support. faceti asigurari

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