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Walking While Black: The Killing of Trayvon Martin

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By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

On the rainy night of Sunday, Feb. 26, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walked to a convenience store in Sanford, Fla. On his way home, with his Skittles and iced tea, the African-American teenager was shot and killed. The gunman, George Zimmerman, didn’t run. He claimed that he killed the young man in self-defense. The Sanford Police agreed and let him go. Since then, witnesses have come forward, 911 emergency calls have been released, and outrage over the killing has gone global.

Trayvon Martin lived in Miami. He was visiting his father in Sanford, near Orlando, staying in the gated community known as The Retreat at Twin Lakes, where Zimmerman volunteered with the Neighborhood Watch program. The Miami Herald reported that Zimmerman was a “habitual caller” to the police, making 46 calls since January 2011. He was out on his rounds as a self-appointed watchman, packing his concealed 9 mm pistol, when he called 911: “We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy ... this guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.”

Later in the call, Zimmerman exclaims, “OK. These a—holes always get away. ... [Expletive], he’s running.”

Sounds of Zimmerman moving follow, along with a controversial utterance from Zimmerman, under his breath, considered by many to be “[Expletive] coons.” The sound of his running prompted the 911 operator to ask, “Are you following him?” Zimmerman replied, “Yeah,” to which the dispatcher said, “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

One of the attorneys representing the Martin family, Jasmine Rand, told me: “The term ‘coon’ on the audiotape ... is a very obvious racial slur against African-Americans. We also heard the neighbors come forward and say, ‘Yeah, in this particular neighborhood, we look for young black males to be committing criminal activity.’ And that’s exactly what George Zimmerman did that night. He found a young black male that he did not recognize, assumed that he did not belong there, and he targeted him.”

Click here to read the rest of this column at Truthdig.org.

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