Kelsey Heatley / Associate Editor
The NAACP and LULAC gathered together on Tuesday, April 10 at the Del Mar College Center for Economic Development to discuss the controversy surrounding the Trayvon Martin killing.
Terry Mills hosted the forum along with a panel that took open questions from the community.
The forum started out with Mills informing the community with the basic facts about the Trayvon Martin shooting.
“All we know right now is that six weeks ago Trayvon was walking from the store talking to his girlfriend on the phone, and somewhere along the road there was confrontation. He was shot in the chest and he died,” Mills said.
Mills stressed that the problem with the situation is why was Trayvon shot and why isn’t Zimmerman behind bars.
Zimmerman wasn’t arrested due to the “Stand Your Ground Law” in Florida.
According to the Center for Individual Freedom, “Stand Your Ground” establishes that law-abiding residents and visitors may legally presume the threat of bodily harm or death from anyone who breaks into a residence or occupied vehicle and may use defensive force, including deadly force, against the intruder.
Mills also stated that the problem is much deeper than the racial issues that seem to surround the case.
“The fact that he was black, green, white, or purple doesn’t matter. No matter the color a child was shot,” Mills said.
Another part of the discussion was how the local community could protect themselves in a situation with strangers in their environment.
Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin explained how the community should use self-defense.
According to Kaelin it’s in the courts hands to decide if the case was in fact self-defense – especially when a death is involved.
“Everyone’s a citizen in this country and has the right of self defense, especially when your life is in danger. However when it’s not in danger call the police, it’s their job to handle the situation,” Kaelin said.
Kaelin also explained that judgments about the Trayvon case are still cloudy and truths are yet to be revealed.
“Don’t be too quick to put somebody in jail, it’s not always what it seems. We have to have all the facts,” Kaelin said.
Rev. Gloria Lear, Senior Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church, also agreed with Kaelin and added that fear and pain affects the views of the case. “In the mist of our fear and pain we don’t see the whole picture because our emotions are so strong. It’s a sad situation,” Lear said. Editor-In-Chief Phillip Perez stressed other issues such as the media interference with cases like Trayvon Martin.
“One of the biggest problems is the mass media fueling emotions because they want to get the story out first. A lot of mass media but not all get stories out to cause a reaction – that’s always going to be a problem,” Perez said.
The panel all came to an agreement with Executive Education Director Mrs. Cynthia Gonzales that there are five questions that need to be answered before the case could be determined. “ We need the answer to who, what, when, where and why.
After that we figure out a change, because it must come,” Gonzales said.
That same evening, Texas A&M Corpus Christi played host to it’s own Trayvon forum. “The Case of Trayvon Martin: A Clash of Power and Culture,” consisted of a panel including Corpus Christi Neighborhood Watch Coordinator Brenda Moreno, American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Abel Cavada, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Melissa Jarrell and the Interim Licensed Counselor specializing in Families and Marriage, John Stewart.
Sponsored by the Corpus Christi chapter of the International Socialist Organization and moderated by Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Isabel Araiza, the forum analyzed the media’s role in the case, Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, the role of race in the shooting and criminal justice system as a whole, and the social construction of crime.
In the packed lecture hall attendees received copies of the “Stand Your Ground” bill to better understand the role the law has had in creating distortion over the situation – such as possible confusion over why an arrest has yet to be made.
“The way these laws are worded – ‘stand your ground,’ ‘your home is your castle,’ speaks to how we see ourselves – they provide the hook for our consent,” Jarrell observed.
Race discussion often turned to the presence of institutionalized racism, and the disparities minorities encounter in the criminal justice system in its entirety.