As with any tragic story that goes viral on the Internet, there is initial reaction, raw emotion, and then time to pause and assess the facts that are being presented. That is what is happening is the tragic death of 17-year-old Travyon Martin, who was shot by George Zimmerman on February 26 in a Sanford FL neighborhood. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, and he was not charged with a crime.
The interest online about this story has sparked intense outrage, an online petition that is now eclipsing over 700,000 signatures and growing, and future demonstrations, including a recently announced Wear Your Hoodie demonstration being held on March 21.
To us, a story is constantly changing and it is constantly fluid. We will admit that we thought what some sites did today to focus on what Zimmerman possibly (and we can't stress the word possibly enough) said on the 911 call just minutes before Martin died was a bit sensational and distracted us from the central issue of the case, it just goes to show that the power on the Internet as a breaking source for news and developments is here, and here to stay. Which will only mean that sites need to be more responsible in how they publish real facts and not just "possible" things.
Basically, there are five real truths that are clear to us tonight:
1. The Sanford police messed up their investigation of their case, not testing Zimmerman that night for drugs and alcohol, not talking to Martin's girlfriend, who was the last person to have spoken with Martin over the phone, and basically not spending the the time they needed to investigate Zimmerman and the events that happened that night. Overlooking key phone calls that the Internet has learned before them is problematic. That is just wrong, and now you wonder why the federal government is involved.
2. Zimmerman had an 911 addiction. He also had a paranoia about black males. According to reports, Zimmerman called 911 more than 45 times between January 1, 2011 and February 26, 2012. As the Miami Herald says: "The answer may lie in police records, which show that 50 suspicious-person reports were called in to police in the past year at Twin Lakes. There were eight burglaries, nine thefts and one other shooting in the year prior to Trayvon’s death." So 17 crimes happened, but there were 50 calls? What about the other 33 calls? What happened there? And when did the Sanford police think that Zimmerman was becoming a nusiance? Or did they ever think that?
3. Zimmerman also carried a concealed weapon. According to Florida guidelines on self-defense and concealed weapons, his self-defense argument has some serious problems:
A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman. But, as stated earlier, deadly force is justified if you are trying to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. The use of deadly force must be absolutely necessary to prevent the crime. Also, if the criminal runs away, you cannot use deadly force to stop him, because you would no longer be "preventing" a crime. If use of deadly force is not necessary, or you use deadly force after the crime has stopped, you could be convicted of manslaughter.
4. Social media is the new media, but it is also its own worst enemy. There is no question that the Martin tragedy entered the national consciousness because social media played a huge role in it. However, in the end, people should still try to get the facts before understanding the whole perspective. Get past the issue that Zimmerman was half Latino so that this wasn't one "white on black" issue only or that Zimmerman maybe said a racial slur on garbled audio. The truth remains is this: one person killed another person there was "suspicion" based on race, and it is clear to us, that the investigation of the person who killed the other person was a total fail, and the public is demanding answers. Racism is still the issue here, which brings us to the the final truth, which is #5.
5. We echo the words of Rep. Federica Wilson: "I am tired of burying young black boys."