With two of its council members wearing hooded sweatshirts in a show of support, Red Bank Council passed a resolution Wednesday night offering condolences to the family of Trayvon Martin, a Florida youth gunned down in an incident that has drawn national attention and sparked debates over gun laws and race.
The council discussed the issue briefly, focusing many of their remarks not on the specifics of the incident but rather its greater ramifications. Mayor Pat Menna talked about the prevalence of gun use in violent crimes, criticizing pro-gun organizations and laying out statistics he says demonstrate the need for greater control. Councilwoman Juanita Lewis simply said she was saddened by the incident, noting the role perception played in the events leading to Martin's death.
Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a self-identified neighborhood watch captain, following a scuffle in a gated Florida community on Feb. 26. In widely disseminated 911 recordings from the night of the shooting, Zimmerman told a dispatcher he was concerned about recent break-ins and said he believed Martin, walking back to his father's fiancé's house from a convenience store, looked suspicious.
Despite being cautioned by the dispatcher not to follow Martin and despite Martin not engaging in any criminal activity, Zimmerman, armed with a handgun, got out of his vehicle and followed the unarmed 17 year old through the neigborhood. Eventually Zimmerman caught up with Martin and confronted him. The incident ended with a fatal shot to Martin's chest.
At that point the story has but one side, Zimmerman's.
Zimmerman claimed self-defense and local police chose not to arrest him, citing Florida's ill-defined and widely criticized "Stand Your Ground" Law as justification. The shooting and the subsequent police investigation prompted community outrage, which grew to national proportions in just weeks, resulting in a petition for Zimmerman's arrest with over a million signatures and even a response from President Barack Obama.
Many believe race and perception played a role in the incident. Martin, who is black, was wearing a hoodie at the time of his shooting. The hoodie since has become a regular sight at protests and demonstrations throughout the country. Athletes, actors and even government officials have donned hoodies in support of Martin.
Red Bank has joined the demonstration, hoping it can do its part to help stoke change.
Councilwoman Sharon Lee provided the most somber reaction to recent events putting responsibility for many of the issues associated with Martin's death on a generation that has failed to make things better for the one to follow.
"This is their world," she said, telling Red Bank residents to reach out to area youth. "We have not done a good job of delivering a safe world to them. We will continue this path until the young people take the reins because we don't seem to be able to change it."
In addition to Wednesday resolution, the council also announced a peaceful march organized to remember Martin and raise awareness of the national issue of stereotyping and injustices lobbied against African American young men.
Called the "Silent and Peaceful Stand for Trayvon Martin," the event is organized by Team IMPACT and will be held this Monday, April 2, from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. on the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Attendees are invited to wear hoodies.