On February 26, 17-year old Trayvon Martin was murdered in cold blood. He was unarmed. His only crime was being young, black, and wearing a hoodie.
A national outcry has emerged because Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman—a self-appointed “neighborhood watch volunteer”—has claimed self-defense and the police have still not arrested him!
Police officials say there is “no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s self-defense claim,” but the 911 tapes clearly demonstrate that Martin was chased down and shot. In fact, Zimmerman has a clear history of racial profiling as he has made 46 calls to 911 regarding “suspicious” persons in the past. We demand the immediate arrest and prosecution of Zimmerman with an independent community investigation of the incident that includes representatives of civil rights and workers organizations.
The police just put Trayvon in a body bag and took him to the morgue as a "John Doe". They made no effort to contact his family even though they had his cell phone. Trayvon’s family didn’t find out for nearly three days!
Trayvon is a victim of a modern-day lynching, which exposes, once again, the ugly underbelly of U.S. society and the institutional racism and criminalization of youth that every black community across the country faces every day. The U.S. has a higher rate of incarceration than any other nation, with over two million people in prison, the majority of which for non-violent offenses, and they are overwhelmingly people of color.
Record of Repression
This is not an isolated incident, but is directly in line with the Sanford Police Department’s track record. The officer in charge of this case was involved in a previous case, in which he initially didn’t arrest a police lieutenant’s son for attacking a black homeless person on camera. Clearly, the official justice system is unreliable to keep our communities safe.
Although not as severe, the Occupy movement has also faced repression and begun to get a taste of what the police force is all about: maintaining the status quo and defending a social order where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
The policies of the 1%, such as budget cuts and closing schools, home foreclosures and evictions, layoffs, low-wages, and overseas wars only hurt us, the vast majority, while they give themselves massive bank bailouts and tax breaks. Furthemore, the attacks on working people and the poor disproportionately affect black and Latino communities.
In the last three years, Obama has done nothing to fundamentally improve the conditions of black people. He has betrayed the hopes in him as the first black president. His words for the family of Trayvon Martin, coming only after a national outcry, ring hollow. Under Obama institutional racism hasn’t been eradicated. If anything, it has gotten worse with increased black unemployment, decimated social services, and increased racial profiling by the police.
For instance, New York’s “stop and frisk” policy of cops stopping people on the street without a warrant has resulted in searches of 4 million New Yorkers, over 85% of them black and Latino. Racism is built into the capitalist system that both parties, Democrats and Republicans, help to defend and oversee. As Malcolm X said “You put the Democrats first and the Democrats put you last.”
This whole system is rotten to the core. To get justice for Trayvon Martin we need to follow the example of the civil rights movement and mobilize mass protest actions in the street and mass civil disobedience. To end racism and poverty altogether we need to fundamentally transform our society.
Over a million people have signed an online petition for Zimmerman’s arrest. Thousands have mobilized in the streets in major cities. We need to take these actions further by mobilizing demonstrations which link up the murder of Trayvon Martin with a broader struggle against racism, making demands such as:
- Immediately arrest and prosecute George Zimmerman for murder.
- For an independent investigation and inquiry by community members, including representatives of civil rights and workers organizations.
- Repeal the “stand your ground” legislation, which undermines public safety by legalizing murder in cases where gun owners “feel threatened.”
- End police brutality and the institutional racism of the criminal justice system. Abolish the death penalty. Invest in rehabilitation, job training, and living-wage jobs, not prisons or detention centers!
- End racial profiling by the police and other racist practices such as “stop and frisk.”
- End the racist war on drugs.
- End unemployment and poverty, which is the basis of most crime, by creating living-wage jobs for all through a massive public works program.
We need to break with the two parties of big business, which clearly have no interest in dealing with the problems facing African-Americans, or working people and youth in general. Both parties represent a system that has failed to provide decent living standards or the prospect of a safe future. Instead we need to promote independent left candidates as a step towards building a new party for working people and youth that fights consistently against racism and all forms of oppression.
You can’t have capitalism without racism. We need a society based on the needs of working people, youth, and the environment – a socialist society that establishes genuine social equality and democratic rights for all.