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10 Years On, Trayvon Martin's Death Seen as Start of a Movement

Ten years ago, black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by a member of a neighborhood watch group, prompting an outrage many now see as a turning point in the fight for racial justice, the Associated Press reports. While many killings of black men, such as that of Amadou Diallo New York City in 1999, had caused widespread criticism, activists and protesters were able to wield the power of social media by the time of Martin's death in 2012. There were peculiarities to Martin's killing. His killer, George Zimmerman, was not a police officer and a 911 dispatcher told him not to follow Martin. Many supported Zimmerman and believed that he shot Martin in self-defense. Prosecutors were slow to respond. After Martin's parents pleaded for Zimmerman's prosecution, celebrities began sharing a petition supporting them. It went on to reach 2.2 million signatures. Zimmerman was charged six weeks after the killing and acquitted the next year.

The verdict caused still more outrage and inspired Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Ayo Tometi to found a new movement, Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter protested in the summer and fall of 2014, when Eric Garner and Michael Brown were killed by police in New York City and Ferguson, Mo., respectively. One activist, Jonel Edwards, described the protests in 2014 as the eruption of public sentiment built on the "general consciousness" caused by Martin's death. The 2014 protests changed little compared to the 2020 outrage over the death of George Floyd. Still, many question whether the changes set in in motion by the deaths of Martin, Garner, Brown, and Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement are close to being sufficient. The Rev. Al Sharpton said that while he was disappointed more federal legislation has not been passed in the ten years since Martin's death, a "cultural change," evidenced by the conviction of Ahmaud Arbery's killers, has taken place.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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