What About Trayvon's Right to Self-Defense?

by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

Whose right to self-defense trumps in the Trayvon Martin case – the unarmed Black teenager or his killer? The killer who stalked Martin claims he got the worst of a fight, and then fired his weapon. But, “to accept Zimmerman’s version of events and relieve him of any culpability is to ignore Trayvon Martin’s right to walk from the 7-11 back to his place of residence unthreatened.”

What About Trayvon's Right to Self-Defense?

by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

“It was Trayvon who was defending himself, standing his ground.”

When explaining a situation or trying to understand an issue, how the circumstance is defined can play a major role in the approach that is taken. In the case of the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, most of the discussion has centered on George Zimmerman’s right to “stand his ground.” What about Travon’s right to move freely about the neighborhood and stand his ground when a threat is initiated by another person?

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman told police, “With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer …, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered, …” Zimmerman then shot the unarmed 17 year-old. This account has supposedly been corroborated by an unnamed witness who stated, “he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon on top, pounding him and was unequivocal that it was Zimmerman who was crying for help.” These accounts are supposed to support Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense and validate his shooting the unarmed teenager.

These facts are clear: George Zimmerman, a failed "wanna' be police officer," initiated the entire encounter. Zimmerman pursued Trayvon Martin against the direction of police officials and against the stated policy in the neighborhood watch handbook. That's offensive not defensive behavior.

“Zimmerman stopped the wrong young man and killed the wrong young man.”

To accept Zimmerman’s version of events and relieve him of any culpability is to ignore Trayvon Martin’s right to walk from the 7-11 back to his place of residence unthreatened. To accept Zimmerman’s version ignores Trayvon Martin’s right to “stand his ground” and defend himself against the perceived threat of an older and larger man following him and questioning his right to be where he is.

What we don’t know is why after being followed by Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old with no history of aggression, would turn on and attack a larger adult when he was 70 feet away from the safety of his own back door. But, if we accept the premise that Zimmerman never should have approached Trayvon in the first place, how we analyze the circumstances takes a different turn. If we accept the fact that despite directions from the police to not engage Trayvon, Zimmerman took it upon himself to attempt to exercise police authority and in doing so had his nose broken and head slammed into the sidewalk one can say Zimmerman “rolled up on” the wrong young man. It was Trayvon who was defending himself, standing his ground, and Zimmerman got the “beat-down” that was coming to him.

There’s a saying in the African American vernacular, “don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’.” Basing his perceptions on stereotypes, Zimmerman stopped the wrong young man and killed the wrong young man. He should not be allowed to get away with murder.

Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: [email protected]. www.twitter.com/drwleon

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