The United Steelworkers (USW) International Executive Board released the following statement today on the tragic shooting death of a Florida teenager last month:
The United Steelworkers (USW) union is relieved that the U.S. Justice Department announced this week that it would intervene to investigate the Feb. 26 slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford City, Florida after local police failed to act. The local chief has contended a state law allows a person who feels threatened to impose with impunity self-determined, self-initiated capital punishment.
“While it is a good first step that the chief has voluntarily stepped aside, we’re still a long way from achieving justice in this case” said USW International Vice President Fred Redmond.
Mr. Martin, an unarmed youth walking home from a convenience store, was shot to death by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who was charged in 2005 with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense – even though a 911 dispatcher had told him to stop following Mr. Martin.
A Florida law, called “stand your ground” apparently is being interpreted by Sanford City, Fla., police officers to mean that a large armed adult can claim he felt so threatened by a slight, unarmed youth that the man had the right to shoot and kill the teen. The teen’s girlfriend has said that in the moments before the youth was shot to death, he told her in a cell phone conversation that he was fearful of a man following him.
“No state, no city, no place in America should allow a self-appointed, unsupervised, untrained vigilante to shoot and kill an unarmed teen-ager and face no consequences,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “This is lawlessness, the very kind that countenanced the lynching of mostly African-Americans, but also Italians, Jews and unionists across the American south for decades after the Civil War.”