It was recently announced that the Supreme Court is to look into issues surrounding the notorious joint enterprise law for the first time. This is a law under which many young working-class and ethnic-minority people have been put behind bars for crimes they did not commit.
George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watch co-ordinator who shot and murdered an unarmed black teenager, has walked free from a Florida courtroom. The jury – five out of six of whom were white – took 16 hours to deliberate and return a unanimous ‘not guilty’ verdict.
It is with disgust – but not surprise – that Red Youth notes Zimmerman’s acquittal as the verdict confirms what most rational observers know: that the lives of oppressed people, particularly young black men, in the United States remain disposable.
Whilst media analysts have already attempted to mask this injustice, referring to circumstantial evidence, there are clear facts from the case that must be repeated:
– Trayvon Martin was a junior in high school who was walking in the community in which he was temporarily living. He was not trespassing or involved in any other criminal activity, as Zimmerman claimed.
– Trayvon was racially profiled, followed, assaulted and murdered for no plausible reason other than Zimmerman – acting in his role of neighbourhood watch leader of a gated community- found his appearance and ethnicity offensive.
– After calling the police to notify them of Trayvon’s ‘suspicious behaviour’, Zimmerman was instructed by the dispatcher to wait for the police and not to approach the teenager. He ignored this instruction.
– Zimmerman claimed that Travyvon was suspicious – ‘up to no good’, ‘on drugs’ and ‘looking at all the houses’. Yet, a police report confirms that Trayvon was not involved in any criminal activity on the night of his murder.
– Attempts have been made to slander Trayvon Martn and to depict him as a violent criminal. It’s been highlighted, for example, that he was suspended from school three times in recent years. These suspensions were, in fact, for non violent alleged offences such as truancy and marijuana possession. Trayvon had never been charged with any crime and did not have a juvenile record.
– Despite shooting and murdering an unarmed child, Zimmerman was astonishingly not arrested until six weeks after the killing. His eventual arrest was the result of cumulative pressure from the public and not the police or state’s quest for justice. The Sanford Police Department was at best incompetent and both the Chief of Police and Lead Investigator have now lost their jobs.
However, this case is not about incompetence. There were no ‘mistakes’. Zimmerman’s acquittal is the logical consequence of an unjust, racist system and is a reminder – albeit a brutal one – that black males can be executed with impunity in the United States.
Moreover, the verdict does not only find Zimmerman innocent, it suggests and assumes that Trayvon is guilty. He is portrayed as menacing, dangerous and ultimately deserving of his fate: HE shouldn’t have been there; HE should have behaved differently; HE should have listened. Yet, the evidence – and cultural, political and economic context – shows that Trayvon is guilty of only one thing – being African American.
In 1964, speaking about the ideology of violence, Malcolm X stated that; “we are non-violent with people who are non-violent with us; but we are not non-violent with anyone who is violent with us. Once those intentions are made known, we can get to the nitty-gritty of the problem, we can get to the core of the problem, we can get to the root of the problem. Then we can correct the problem”. The murder of Trayvon Martin – and the fact that an African American is killed every 36 hours by the police or private security forces – surely reveals the barbaric violent nature of the political system in the United States, and the need for an organised, militant response.
Red Youth rejects the depiction of this event as a ‘tragedy’. It is the cold-blooded, racially motivated murder of an unarmed teenager. We also believe there is only so much mileage in talking about judicial failure. In fact, when a proper analysis of the so-called democracy in the United States is conducted, we find that its elitist, racist and anti-working class nature has performed consistent to its intended design. The murder of Trayvon painfully reinforces the reality that the system was not designed for poor, working class, black people.
Red Youth also recognises that this is not unique to the United States and that the extrajudicial killing of working class youths is becoming increasingly common here – as the execution of Mark Duggan in 2011 shows. London and Washington both practice superficial democracy to mask their oppressive political and economic dictatorship. It is in painful times like these that this mask is removed – and it is times like these that the people become most angry, militant and ready to organise for change.