Political action committee aimed at subsidizing efforts to revise the controversial law cited in Florida teen’s shooting death
The parents of Trayvon Martin have launched a website and a political action committee aimed at fighting the proliferation of stand-your-ground laws.
Change For Trayvon will collect funds to be “distributed to candidates, elected officials and efforts which support the mission of … revising stand-your-ground laws across the nation to ensure there is judicial or prosecutorial oversight”.
A video on the website shows Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, sitting side by side, urging viewers to join their campaign. “We need your help to change the laws which keep parents like ourselves from finding peace,” Tracy Martin says.
The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a Hispanic neighbourhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, prompted weeks of protest and racially charged debate. Police cited Florida’s stand-your-ground law, which allows the use of deadly force if threatened, in their decision not to arrest the gunman.
Zimmerman, who claims he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defence, was eventually charged with second-degree murder and is out on bail awaiting trial.
“These laws allow individuals to shoot first and ask questions afterwards,” says Tracy Martin in the video. Martin says he is standing with the 30,000 parents who have lost children to gun violence. A black and white photograph on the website shows father and son in baseball caps, Martin with an arm around his son’s neck, planting a kiss on his cheek.
“Worse, under existing stand-your-ground laws, decisions on shootings are made even before a judge or prosecutor can review the case” adds Fulton in the short video.
The website carries a link to a PayPal account for donations and includes a colour-coded map of the US, showing 32 states which have enacted stand-your-ground laws. Six states have passed such laws since Martin’s death on 26 February. The website shows a further eight states where proposed stand-your-ground laws are on the ballot in November.
The site’s stated mission is to give Trayvon Martin’s family a voice in the political process. It states: “Your support will help engage the discussion across the country regarding stand-your-ground laws and the need to revise them so that there is required judicial or prosecutorial review before decisions are made … The Change for Trayvon movement will shine the light on stand-your-ground laws across the nation.”
Fulton says: “Stand-your-ground is a solution in search of a problem, and it’s a terrible solution with tragic results; like the death of our son.”
No member of the Martin family or their attorneys will benefit directly from donations, the website says. It promises that 90% of donations would go to “support the mission of Change for Trayvon”.
No further details on how the campaign would be taken forward were immediately available and a call to the Martin family lawyer went unreturned. However Benjamin Crump, Martin’s lawyer, is quoted on the site talking about proposed laws on the ballot next month.
“Most people don’t know whether these laws are on the ballot to be reviewed in their state or not,” says Crump. “The Change For Trayvon CCE and its associated website and social media outlets will work to enlighten voters about the status of these laws across the country.”
In August, Zimmerman’s lawyer said he would no longer pursue a stand-your-ground defence for his client. However, he said that the defence team would still try to get the case dismissed during a stand-your-ground hearing.
“I think the facts seem to support that though we have a stand-your-ground immunity hearing, what this really is, is a simple, self-defence immunity hearing” Mark O’ Mara told the Huffington Post. He will argue that Zimmerman was being attacked by Martin and fired the fatal shots in an act of self-defence without having an opportunity to escape.
According to Florida stand-your-ground law, a person may use deadly force without having to take evasive action if they are in reasonable fear of danger. This means that even though individuals may have the opportunity to escape their attacker, they could choose to stand ground and fight back.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]