By Kunal Bambawale, Annenberg Radio News
Listen to this audio story:
Some of the pastors at McCoy Memorial Baptist Church on 46th Street in South L.A. wore hooded jackets to express their solidarity with 17 year-old Trayvon Martin—who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot.
As the twenty-odd churchgoers held hands in mourning, pastors called for the arrest of George Zimmerman, who says he shot Martin in self-defense.
But Eighth District Councilman Bernard Parks urged respect for the legal process.
“I don’t think we right a wrong by having no investigation. I think the investigation will clarify in everyone’s mind what actually occurred and will then become the basis of what happens in court,” said Parks.
The shooting, on February 26th in Sanford, Florida, has sparked a national debate about so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws.
Here in California, you can only use deadly force to protect yourself in your own home, and only when an intruder is threatening you with severe injuries or death.
But in Florida, where Martin was shot, you can also “stand your ground” in a vehicle or public place. If the investigation concludes that Martin initiated the violence, then Zimmerman was legally allowed to use his gun to defend himself.
But Councilman Parks believes that even calling the law “Stand Your Ground” is confusing.
“When you hear these little slogans like ‘Stand Your Ground,’ it defeats the whole purpose of explaining the law. So I don’t think people are interpreting the law, as what I can see the intent is, because I’ve heard variations that say, you can just be frightened and shoot. I don’t know of any law on the books that says you can indiscriminately shoot people.”
The case has spurred civil rights protests across the country, as well as here in Los Angeles. Monday morning, a group of more than a hundred students from Fremont High School in South L.A. marched to demand justice for Trayvon Martin.
South LA preachers pray for Trayvon
by Lensa Bogale
Members of the Baptist Minister’s Conference gathered together Monday to pray and oppose the injustices of 17-year old Trayvon Martin’s murder, who was shot dead last month while unarmed in Sanford, Florida.
28-year old Zimmerman, the shooter, has recently alleged that Martin approached him from behind, punched him, and then proceeded to bang his head into the sidewalk, causing him to shoot the teen out of self-defense.
Martin’s parents are now in the midst of defending their slain teenage son against these recent accusations and are also criticizing the police for providing confidential information about their son’s suspension from school due to marijuana possession.
Pastor Dr. Wendell Davis Sr., who preached during a church service following the gathering, is one of several that empathize with Martin’s parents.
“It was a grown man preying on a child and a child fighting for his life, that is what we have to keep the focus on,” said Davis. “I don’t care what he was [racially], it was a child being murdered.”
The case has ignited public debate on race, because Martin was African American and Zimmerman is of Caucasian and Hispanic decent. Civil rights leaders have led a number of protests in Sanford as well as across the United States.
Sybrina Dulton, the mother of the 17-year old, spoke before a congressional panel in Washington D.C. on Tuesday calling for justice for her son’s death and to talk about racial profiling and hate crimes issues.
Davis specifically addressed the isuse of racial tensions in South Los Angeles, “We know we have black [African American] on brown [Latino] crime in South L.A. and we know we have internal issues within our communities and we are working on that, that’s what this conference is partially about.”
The Police in Sanford maintain their stance that Zimmerman’s story is consistent with the evidence in the Trayvon Martin shooting and the 28-year old has not yet been arrested.
“Speak against violence to anyone or any person no matter what their race, dress, or sexual preference may be,” says Davis. “And say in solidarity ‘that was wrong.’”