The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

10 Years After the Killing of Trayvon Martin

Feb 28, 2022

On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch captain—George Zimmerman. Martin was walking back from the 7-Eleven with his bag of Skittles and ice-tea to a relative’s house where he was visiting in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman stalked and killed Martin. In Zimmerman’s racist mind, a black guy in a hoodie was suspicious and dangerous. Never mind that it was Zimmerman who was carrying the gun. Zimmerman took it upon himself to play cop, jury, judge, and executioner. This incident touched off protests and demonstrations.

It sparked a movement. Ten years later, “Black Lives Matter” has grown from a hashtag after the acquittal of George Zimmerman to a protester’s cry to a movement. Since Trayvon Martin there have been many more killings—too many to count, and many more protests, demonstrations, and uprisings.

Some notable examples are Eric Garner, killed in July of 2014, in a choke hold by a New York city cop. The killing of Michael Brown by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri in August of that same year which led to a month-long uprising in the city. Freddie Gray’s killing in 2015, by Baltimore city cops, which led to many protests including the famous march from Mondawmin mall south through the city, led by high school students. All these and many more killings and protests occurred up to the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota by four cops. Then, the protests and demonstrations went to a new level. It is estimated that over half a million people were involved in over 550 places across the U.S. Not just in large cities, but small towns, local neighborhoods. People organized where they lived.

It makes a difference to stand up against these wrongs. The movement has had an impact. In 2014, Laquan McDonald was killed by Chicago police. Over a year later video was released showing McDonald walking away from police when he was shot 16 times. The cop was charged and found guilty of second-degree murder. While he was recently released after only serving half his sentence, he was convicted because people were out there in the street protesting.

Derek Chauvin, the cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, was convicted of murder. And now his three accomplices have been found guilty of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights because they did not stop Chauvin. This would not have happened without all the hundreds of thousands of people standing up and saying “No!”

In 1955, Emmet Till was brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, had an open casket funeral because she wanted the world to know what they did to her son—touching off the Civil Rights Movement. A movement that had an impact particularly in reducing the number of lynchings against black people.

The killing of Trayvon Martin sparked a very different movement but one that has had its impact and hopefully a movement that can grow to recognize racist violence as part of a much larger violent system that has to be dismantled and replaced, because it cannot be reformed.