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October 2013 Vol. 21. No. 1 Focus on Schools in Crisis

Activism around the city

Youth group joins Florida activists to push for Trayvon’s Law

By by Mark McHugh

Youth United for Change members are used to rallying against injustices in public education. In July, group members took hold of a somewhat different cause when they traveled to Tallahassee, Fla., to protest alongside members of a Florida activist group against the controversial verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, and fight for passage of a package of bills called the Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act.

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

The bills, also called Trayvon’s Law, were developed by the Dream Defenders, an organization with seven chapters throughout Florida that confronts systemic inequalities facing youth of color. They call for Gov. Rick Scott and the state legislature to repeal Florida’s controversial “stand-your-ground law,” ban racial profiling, and end the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Twenty-five YUC members took part in the sit-in for three consecutive days inside the state Capitol building. 

“It was a monumental experience,” said 19-year-old YUC member Tone Elliott, who is currently pursuing his GED through YESPhilly. 

“I can say I did a freedom ride, for real.”

YUC member and Philadelphia High School for Girls senior Christa Rivera said, “We were all really upset at the verdict.” 

Though there is no sign that Trayvon’s Law will be passed or even addressed by the state legislature, Rivera said any support that YUC and the Dream Defenders can get on this matter will help the cause in fighting for justice for all youth of color. 

Since the Florida trip, YUC members have refocused their attention on the District’s crippling budget crisis, which has stripped schools of many critical services and programs. In August they joined members of the union UNITE HERE in a 12-hour fast in front of District headquarters to call on the District to restore the positions of school safety staff that had been laid off. They also participated in a massive march to protest the lack of school funding, and YUC members spoke at the rally. 

As with the Florida sit-in, Elliott said the school funding march left an indelible mark on him. 

“It felt like I was witnessing history.”

 

Comments (3)

Submitted by Anonymous in California (not verified) on September 11, 2013 7:01 pm
This is misguided. The trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin had nothing to do with Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which is a particular statute that Zimmerman's defense team chose not to invoke in a pre-trial hearing that could have resulted in a summary dismissal of the case had the judge agreed to it. Zimmerman's defense was based on a traditional self-defense model based on common law, in which a person who is violently attacked and reasonably fears imminent death or great bodily injury is justified in responding to the attack with greater force, including deadly force. There was "stand your ground" language in the instructions given to the jury, but Florida's instructions are similar to those in all other states including California, where it is assumed that everyone has the right to defend himself or herself against a violent attacker. Zimmerman's defense presented a credible narrative, supported by evidence and not contradicted by the prosecution's case, that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor in the physical confrontation between the two. That's the bottom line. Zimmerman was acquitted of not just murder but also of a group of lesser "included" offenses including manslaughter, battery, and assault. Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law did not come into play in the case. Using it to try to build a case against such laws is illogical. BTW, if you look at actual statistics about the application of Stand Your Ground in Florida, you won't find any kind of systematic inequality based on race.
Submitted by Serch4Truth (not verified) on September 13, 2013 11:36 am
Stand Your Ground means that you have a choice in running or staying. George Zimmerman had no choice because Martin was on top of him beating him MMA style. And it amazes me that the educated leaders of the black community don't seem to be able to understand that. I think what they're doing is keeping themselves in a job. The facts that were suppressed by the court seem to clearly show that Trayvon was a thief and a thug wannabe and was living a dangerous life. Had he not been killed by Zimmerman, he would probably have been killed down the road somewhere or possibly overdosed on drugs. And the parents knew all of this and tried to suppress this information with the help of their attorney, Benjamin Crump. And now, the parents are looked upon as celebrities and Trayvon is looked upon as an upright citizen and a martyr. Neither is the truth.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2013 12:32 pm
Search4Truth - you need to do just that! No one knows what happened that evening except George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. We only have 1 side of the story to hear because Trayvon Martin is dead. Fact - Zimmerman, who is labeled as a "Town Watch Volunteer" - either by himself or by the media - did not follow the protocol for "Town Watch" which is to observe and report - not follow. Whatever the turn of events was - whether Trayvon had previous issues with authority and / or had problems in school. Unfortunately he may not have had a clean school record and life history like you - he may have lived and not made the wisest choices.. But, you are here through your choices to talk about him being killed not as a result of those choices but as a result of the choice of a stranger to follow and later fatally shoot him. Truth is very clear - judgments muddy the water.

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