Trayvon Martin, the hoodie and new media

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 Many on this side of the Atlantic will have become aware of the growing controversy surrounding the killing of a black teenage boy in Sanford, Florida, on February 26th of this year.

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year old black boy who was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer known for being particularly enthusiastic in his role. Zimmerman had contacted the local police prior to the shooting to report a boy engaging in “suspicious behaviour.”  

Most startlingly, Zimmerman has yet to be arrested over the killing, with Florida’s controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws being cited as the reason why the local police have yet to arrest him (though the former Florida Governor who signed the bill into law, one Jeb Bush, has maintained that Zimmerman is not covered by the law.)

Already, Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee, has temporarily stepped down as the controversy regarding the non-arrest of Zimmerman rages.

The tragic case has so many angles. The armed community watch officer empowered by controversial laws resulting from society’s fear of crime; the racist angle, whereby Martin would appear to have been a suspect merely on the grounds of being a black youth walking through a gated community.

But it’s also believed that the fact that Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie added to Zimmerman’s suspicions.

This particular aspect of the case has been seized upon by many of those protesting the murder, and new media- particularly Twitter- has been used to spread the word about the nature of many of the protests that have taken place across the States. An e-petition calling for justice has been signed by over 1.8 million people already.

The black film producer and ardent New York Knicks fan, Spike Lee, has been to the fore in spreading the word and encouraging black sports figures and celebrities to express solidarity with the Martin family and protest the killing by being pictured sporting hoodies. Already, many high profile basketball players have responded positively, and people have taken to sporting hoodies in all climates across the States to demonstrate their support for the Martin family. 

US President, Barack Obama, has already spoken out on the incident, stating that “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” a statement which was condemned by Republican Presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich.