Town tries to unite after Trayvon Martin killing

SANFORD — A year after the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in this central Florida town, there is a small memorial, a new police chief and an effort to improve race relations.

Trayvon Martin, 17, was gunned down on February 26, 2012, as he walked to his father’s fiancee’s home in one of Sanford’s gated communities. The man accused of his killing, George Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic on neighbourhood watch, is set to be tried on June 10.

A judge could grant immunity to Zimmerman at a pre-trial hearing on April 29 under Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to use lethal force in self defence if they are in fear of serious bodily harm.

Martin’s death drew top-tier civil rights leaders, such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who brought a national spotlight to this town just north of Orlando and not far from Disney World.

Due diligence

That spotlight forced the town of 53,000 to confront police work that seemed to be a throwback to the days of separate and resolutely unequal racial sensibilities.

“This situation, with all eyes on Sanford is making them (city leaders) do something about it now,” said Cindy Philemon, 49, who helps run the local black heritage museum and welcome center.

A year later Martin’s family says it does not want the case considered in racial terms.

“We don’t want people to see this as a black kid. I want people to see this as a teenager … who was walking, minding his own business,” Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton, told the NPR radio show Tell Me More last night.

Despite the pain of losing her son, Fulton said she was glad that a debate had opened up about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

The family is backing an amendment to the law seeking to restrict its application.

“You can’t follow, pursue and chase anyone, be the aggressor, have a confrontation with him, shoot and kill him, and then go home to your bed and nothing happens,” she said. (Reuters)

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