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Trayvon Martin Had To Be Guilty Of Something, Right?

A few words on the innocence of Trayvon Martin.

The very idea will outrage certain people. Experience says the notion of Trayvon Martin being innocent will offend them deeply.

But they can get over it. Or not.

Because it is five years now since Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin’s unarmed son died. Five years since he was killed in Sanford, Florida by a neighborhood watchman who dubbed him, on sight, a “f—— punk” and one of “these a–holes.”

Five years. And there are things that need saying. His divorced parents say much of it in Rest In Power, their new book about the tragedy.

“My son had been intensely alive!” writes Martin. “My son had been a life force, a teenager who had hopes and dreams and so much love. But in death, he became a figure we could only see through the dark mirror of evidence and testimony, a cursed single night when our son and all that life inside him was reduced to a stranger, a black kid in a hoodie, a young man in the shadows. A suspect.”

George Zimmerman was the first to make that reduction when he stalked Trayvon through a gated community despite a police dispatcher advising him to stay with his car. Then the police did it, testing the shooting victim for drugs and alcohol while telling his killer to “go home and get some rest.” Then the jury did it when they set Zimmerman free.

Much of America did it, too. One reader wrote — without a shred of evidence — that Trayvon was “casing” houses when he was shot. This was a boy walking back from 7-Eleven to watch a basketball game at his father’s girlfriend’s house.

Another person, upset that family photos made Trayvon look too young and, well … innocent, forwarded a chain email showing a tough-looking man, with beard and mustache, tats on his hands and face, insisting, “This is the real Trayvon.” It was actually the real Jayceon “Game” Taylor, a then-32 year old rapper.

Supplied with a death scene image of Trayvon — darker skin than Taylor, younger, slimmer, no facial hair, no visible tats — the woman was unmoved. “They’re both Trayvon,” she insisted.

Because Trayvon could not, at all costs, be innocent. The very idea was a threat.

So people embraced absurdities. Like a 140-pound boy jumping a man 12 years older and 50 pounds heavier. Like the boy hitting the man 25 or 30 times and bashing his head against concrete, though Zimmerman’s “injuries” amounted to a bloody nose and scratches on the back of his head that needed no stitches. Like Trayvon, shot point blank in the heart, dying like a villain in some 1950s western, groaning, “You got me.”

They seized upon his suspension from school. For them, it proved not that he was an ordinary boy who needed — and was receiving — the guidance of two loving parents. No, it proved he was not, could never be, innocent. Trayvon was no angel, they would announce triumphantly.

But why did he have to be? And why was there no similar requirement of the killer, who had been arrested once for scuffling with a police officer and had been the subject of a domestic-violence restraining order? The answer is too obvious for speaking.

Five years ago, a black boy was shot for nothing. And many Americans made him a blank screen upon which they projected their racialized stereotypes and fears.

They could not allow him to be a harmless child walking home. No, they needed his guilt.

They knew what it proved if Trayvon Martin was innocent.

Namely, that America was anything but.

IMAGE: This undated file family photo shows Trayvon Martin. Martin was slain in the town of Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26 in a shooting that has set off a nationwide furor over race and justice. 

George Zimmerman Takes A Victory Lap On A Dead Boy’s Grave

It was not enough just to kill Sam Hose. No, they had to make souvenirs out of him.

Hose was an African-American man lynched by a mob of some 2,000 white women and men in 1899 near the town of Newman, Ga. They did all the usual things. They stabbed him, castrated him, skinned his face, mutilated him, burned him alive.

Then they parceled out pieces of his body.

You could buy a small fragment of his bones for a quarter. A piece of his liver, “crisply cooked,” would set you back a dime. The great African-American scholar, W.E.B. DuBois, reported that Hose’s knuckles were for sale in a grocer’s window in Atlanta.

No, it wasn’t enough just to kill Sam Hose. People needed mementos of the act.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough just to kill Trayvon Martin, either.

Granted, it is not a piece of the child’s body that was recently put up for auction online by the man who killed him. George Zimmerman is offering “only” the gun that did the deed. But there is a historical resonance here as sickening as it is unmistakable.

Once again, a black life is destroyed. Once again, “justice” gives the killer a pass. Once again, there is a barter in keepsakes of the killing.

Sam Hose was not unique. People claimed hundreds, thousands, of trophies from the murders of African Americans. They kept bones. They kept sexual organs. They kept photographs of themselves, posed with mutilated corpses. It happened with the killings of Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith, Rubin Stacy, Laura Nelson, Claude Neal and too many more to count.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see it happen with Trayvon.

And someone will say, yes, but isn’t there a lively trade in all sorts of murder memorabilia? One website alone offers a signed postcard from Charles Manson, a letter from Jeffrey Dahmer, pictures of Ted Bundy. So how is this different?

Funny thing, though: All those men went to prison for what they did. Zimmerman did not. Initially, authorities couldn’t even bring themselves to arrest this self-deputized neighborhood watchman who stalked and shot an unarmed boy four years ago near Orlando.

Not that it mattered much when they did. Zimmerman went to court, but it was 17-year-old Trayvon who was on trial. A nation founded, rooted and deeply invested in the canard of native black criminality very much needed to believe Zimmerman’s improbable tale of self-defense, very much needed to find a way for the boy to be guilty of his own murder.

And so he was.

And the marketing of the gun that killed him by the man who pulled the trigger does not feel like simply another example of flagrantly bad taste. No, it feels like a victory lap on a dead boy’s grave. It feels like America once again caught in its own lies.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”? No we don’t.

“…with liberty and justice for all”? No there is not.

One is left breathless, not just with anger, not only with frustration, not simply with a sense of betrayal but also with a grinding fatigue at the need to, once again, ride out an assault on the basic humanness of African-American people.

Like Sam Hose, Trayvon Martin was “thing-ified,” made into something not his singular and individual self, made into an all-purpose metaphor, the brooding black beast glaring through the night-darkened window of American conscience. And like Sam Hose his murder is now commodified, made into a trophy for display in someone’s den.

African-American life is thereby — again — debased, and the nation, shamed. So when this thing is sold it really won’t matter who writes the check.

We all will pay the price.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

(c) 2016 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo: An undated file family photo shows Trayvon Martin. AP Photo/Martin Family, File

Fake Buyers Like ‘Racist McShootFace’ Hijack Trayvon Martin Gun Sale

Bidding in an online auction for the pistol George Zimmerman used to shoot and kill unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 topped a total of $65 million on Friday, though the amount appeared to be inflated by fake buyers with names such as “Racist McShootFace.”

Zimmerman drew wide criticism on Thursday after offering to sell the Kel-Tec PF9 9mm handgun, which the former neighborhood watch volunteer described in the auction listing as “an American Firearm Icon.”

Zimmerman said the weapon was used to defend his life and “end the brutal attack” from Martin. Martin’s family has said the 17-year-old was simply walking home after buying a drink and candy from a local store when he had his fatal encounter with Zimmerman.

Martin’s killing near Orlando, Florida, sparked nationwide civil rights protests and debate over “stand your ground” laws, which let people use deadly force without a duty to retreat if they are in fear of being harmed. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the case.

By lunchtime on Friday, bidders in the auction on the United Gun Group’s website included “shaniqua bonifa” and “Tamir Rice,” the same name as the 12-year-old black boy shot dead by a white police officer in Cleveland in 2014.

The auction is scheduled to end on Wednesday. USA Today reported that the bid by “Racist McShootFace” was later deleted.

The auction began on Thursday after the first site where Zimmerman attempted to sell the gun rejected the listing. That site, GunBroker.com, said in a statement that it wanted no part in the auction or the attendant publicity.

 

‘LETTER OF THE LAW’

A listing for the gun then appeared on UnitedGunGroup.com, with a starting price of $5,000. By midday on Friday it had received more than 1,000 bids.

United Gun Group said in a statement that as long as Zimmerman was obeying “the letter of the law,” the sale of his personal firearm would be allowed on the site.

“While not always popular, this is where we stand. There are principles this nation was founded on, and our goal is to do our part to defend liberty,” United Gun Group said.

“We know that many lives have been forever impacted by the incident February 26, 2012, and we’re truly sorry to the Martin family for their loss. We will have no further comment on the matter.”

The website calls itself a “free social network and marketplace that embraces the 2nd amendment and lawful discussion.” The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It is contained in the Bill of Rights.

In the auction listing, Zimmerman said he would use money from the sale to counter violence against law enforcement officers by Black Lives Matter, a movement that grew out of Martin’s shooting. Proceeds would also go toward fighting Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s “anti-firearm rhetoric,” Zimmerman said.

According to the listing, the pistol is marked with the number from the Martin case in silver ink and the listing included multiple photographs of the weapon being displayed in court during Zimmerman’s trial.

The listing closed with a Latin phrase, “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum,” meaning “if you wish peace, prepare for war.”

A lawyer for Martin’s family called the sale offensive but said it would not distract the family from their work advocating against gun violence.

Zimmerman has previously sold on eBay a painting depicting the American flag, and a painting he did of a Confederate flag to raise money for a Florida gunshop owner who declared his store a Muslim-free zone.

 

(Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Tom Brown)

 

Zimmerman To Auction Gun Used To Kill Trayvon Martin

The Florida man who shot and killed black teenager Trayvon Martin in an incident that triggered nationwide civil rights protests will auction the gun he used on Thursday and spend some of the proceeds to challenge gun control policies, the auction website said.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently returned to George Zimmerman the Kel Tec 9mm pistol that he had used to kill the unarmed Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, according to Gunbroker.com, the website where the weapon is being sold.

Zimmerman described the gun as “a piece of American history,” according to the site.

The one-day auction is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) on Thursday, with bidding starting at $5,000.

The Trayvon Martin Foundation “has no comment on the actions of that person that murdered Trayvon,” Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, said in a statement.

Zimmerman, who was a neighborhood watch volunteer at the time, said the shooting was in self-defense. Martin’s family said the teenager was simply passing through the residential area on his way home from a convenience store.

Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the incident that sparked civil rights rallies and shone a spotlight on Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.

President Barack Obama said after Zimmerman’s acquittal that Martin “could have been me, 35 years ago” and urged Americans to understand the pain African Americans felt over the case.

 

‘SOCIOPATH’

“George Zimmerman” quickly became the top trending term on Twitter in the United States, with many users on the social media site expressing shock and revulsion.

“The only people worse than George Zimmerman are the people who bid on that gun,” tweeted the writer, Lyz Lenz.

National Review columnist Charles C. W. Cooke said Zimmerman “may have acted legally, but the man is a sociopath.”

On the auction website, Zimmerman said he planned to use part of the proceeds to fight Black Lives Matter, a rights movement that grew out of the incident, as well as to counter “violence against law enforcement officers.”

Proceeds would also go toward fighting Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s “anti-firearm rhetoric,” he said.

“I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American firearm icon. The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin,” he said on the site.

The number from the Martin case is written on the pistol in silver permanent marker and “many have expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm,” he said in the description.

In a phone interview with a local broadcaster on Wednesday, Zimmerman brushed off those critical of the auction.

“They’re not going to be bidding on it, so I couldn’t care less about them,” he told Orlando TV station WOFL.

Zimmerman, who has had brushes with law enforcement since his acquittal, was the target of an attempted murder by Matthew Apperson in a Florida road dispute in May 2015, according to prosecutors.

He told WOFL that he had received death threats while in hiding after killing Martin, and that he had received more threats to his life since the gun sale was announced.

“What I’ve decided to do is not cower,” he said. “I’m a free American. And I can do what I like with my possessions.”

 

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Amy Tennery in New York, and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem; Editing by Bernadette Baum)