George Zimmerman's trial for the death of Trayvon Martin began this past week. Regardless of whether or not he is convicted, it remains important to remember that he almost didn't stand trial at all. Sanford Police attempted to act as judge and jury. Despite the fact that a 17-year-old boy had been shot and killed, and an eyewitness claimed it wasn't self-defense, they had let George Zimmerman walk away with no intent to charge him. Thanks to Martin's incredibly strong and courageous parents, and the actions of grassroots activists around the country, George Zimmerman finally has gone to trial.
Zimmerman was not charged until 45 days after he shot Trayvon Martin. Sanford police refused to charge George Zimmerman, although he admitted to shooting Martin, claiming self defense. Zimmerman wasn't taken into custody, or given a drug/alcohol test.
An unarmed 17-year-old boy was dead, and his family was told there would be no trial: the shooter would be taken at his word.
This isn't a world where justice always prevails but what happened next is an incredible example of the will of the American people. Trayvon Martin's family wanted their day in court and justice for their son, and millions of Americans stood with them, demanding they get it.
Kevin Cunningham, a graduate of Howard University and resident of Washington, D.C., was infuriated by the lack of charges against Zimmerman. He started an online petition on Change.org, and started sending it through Howard Fraternity listservs. Within days the petition had over 10,000 signatures, and Change.org took the rare step of requesting to Kevin Cunningham that they transfer the petition to Trayvon's parents. It's worth mentioning that Kevin Cunningham is a white man, who never met Trayvon Martin or his family. He was just one of many people who thought the George Zimmerman should stand trial. Over 2 million people signed the petition demanding George Zimmerman be charged, the most who have ever participated in a change.org petition."From the beginning, our only goal has been getting simple justice for our son," Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, has been quoted as saying. "The fact that more than 2 million people have signed this petition shows there are still a lot of good people in this world."
Thousands of people, organized by the NAACP, marched for justice in Sanford, where Trayvon Martin was killed. Hundreds of protesters gathered in L.A., New York City, Washington, D.C. and other cities across the country, demanding a trial. The Department of Justice opened an investigation into the Sanford Police department's handling of the case. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney became involved in the case. Sanford Chief of Police Bill Lee was eventually fired, and a special prosecutor was appointed. Finally, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charged George Zimmerman with second degree murder, and he was taken into custody.
The Trayvon Martin case is tragic, but the way that ordinary, grassroots activists demanded accountability from the Sanford Police Department is inspiring. What happens during the trial will undoubtedly be examined and dissected by legal experts, the media, and Americans of every race across the nation. While we don't know the outcome yet, Trayvon Martin's family will finally have their day in court, and that in and of itself is an incredible victory for an ordinary family in an impossible circumstance.