Sharpton: 3 reasons why Trayvon Martin shooting is a hate crime

The Rev. Al Sharpton will hold a rally tonight, March 22, 2012, in Sanford, Fla., pressing for action in the Trayvon Martin case. /AP Photo/David Tulis

By // Aisha I. Jefferson

Rev. Al Sharpton says language George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who allegedly shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, used during the 911 call he made moments before the boy’s death reveal that he racially profiled the youth. He says these three things constitute the basis of a hate crime investigation.

“When [the 911 dispatcher] asked him if [Trayvon] was Black, White or Latino, he said I think he’s Black. The second is when [Zimmerman] said‘they’ always get away. Who is ‘they?’ Then this last part where [it’s alleged that] under his breath he refers to something as coon,” says Sharpton, who was asked to get involved by Trayvon’s parents’ attorney, Benjamin Crump. Zimmerman is White and Latino.

Trayvon and his dad, Tracy Martin, both of Miami, were visiting the dad’s girlfriend in the Sanford, Florida gated community. Trayvon was returning from a convenience store when Zimmerman, who had called 911 to report the teen looked “suspicious” and to be “on drugs,” allegedly decided to follow and apprehend the boy himself.

George Zimmerman

Zimmerman, 28, allegedly shot the unarmed youth — who only had Skittles, a bottle of iced tea and money on him — in the chest with a 9mm handgun. He told police he acted in self–defense and was released after questioning.

The Sanford Police Department’s failure to arrest and charge Zimmerman has sparked national outrage. The Sanford Police cite Florida’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law that allows a person to shoot someone if they feel threatened as a reason why Zimmerman wasn’t arrested.

But Sharpton says Zimmerman’s self-defense claim, even under the Florida law, is bogus.

“I honestly could not believe that the police had these tapes and let this guy walk away. To hear [Trayvon] screaming ‘Help me’ is clearly not someone trying to hurt anybody. Secondly, when the guy says ‘yes, I am following him,’ how are you going to follow someone if you’re threatened by them?” he says, referring to 911 calls made by Zimmerman and neighbors who witnessed the incident.

The 911 Tapes

Zimmerman’s call to 911

Witness calls 1-3

Witness calls 4-6

Witness call 7

In the tapes you can hear a man, identified as Trayvon, screaming for help moments before a single-gun shot goes off. The recordings also reveal that Zimmerman ignored a 911 dispatcher’s order not to follow the youth. A 16-year-old female friend who was on the phone with Trayvon just before he was shot says he was concerned with why Zimmerman was following him.

Zimmerman’s family has reportedly said that he couldn’t be racist because he’s a minority. Sharpton disagrees, saying it’s “absolutely” possible for minorities to exhibit racial discrimination toward other minorities, pointing out that two of the New York Police involved in the Sean Bell shooting incident in 2006 were Black.

Regarding Trayvon, Sharpton says the critical part is to have Zimmerman arrested and charged, the Sanford Police investigated and also deal with the flawed Florida law cited in Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, are meeting with U.S. Justice Department officials today. They’ve described their son as “very respectable” and a “family-oriented” high school junior who aspired to attend Florida A&M University in 2013.

“People like Zimmerman need to have the proper training and they need to not try to take matters in to their own hands. Every kid that they see is not a troublemaker,” says Fulton, adding she wants people to keep up with the case “so that this won’t happen to someone else’s kid.”

Sharpton, who, sadly lost his mother Ada early Thursday, is still expected to lead a planned rally at 7 p.m today at First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford, Fla. to demand the arrest of Zimmerman.

Along with other community organizers, he is calling today a “National Day of Outrage.”