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Travyon Martin’s Death is a highly publicized murder trial involving the fatal shooting of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin by 28-year-old George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
On February 26th, 2012, African American teenager Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by 28-year-old George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. According to the official report, Martin was unarmed and found dead on the scene upon the arrival of police officers, who responded to a non-emergency call made by the shooter shortly before he approached Martin on his own.
Zimmerman, a community watch captain, described the incident as an act of self-defense after a physical scuffle ensued between the two. Unable to find any evidence contradicting Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, the police did not arrest the shooter.
Due to the unusual and racially sensitive circumstances surrounding the incident, the death of Trayvon Martin instantly made the national headline in the news media and sparked yet another round of debate over firearm control laws in the United States. Timelines of the story’s development have been compiled by ABC News and Mother Jones.
Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, created an online petition via Change.org on March 8th to pressure local police to pay closer attention to their son’s case. It gathered several thousand signatures in the three weeks leading up to national coverage of the story. By March 21st, it had become the fastest growing petition in Change.org’s history with 800 people signing per minute. Five days later, the petition reached 2.2 million signatures, with 1000 new signatures per minute. The Facebook group Justice For Trayvon Martin was created on March 15th, 2012, accruing 179,000 likes in just under two weeks.
Several celebrities including Mike Tyson, journalists Anderson Cooper and Nancy Grace, and filmmakers Spike Lee and Michael Moore took to Twitter as early as March 19th using the hashtag #TrayvonMartin to bring attention to the case. Additionally, fake accounts for celebrities joined in the conversation. The now-suspended account @RealFerrelWill offered to donate a dollar to a fake foundation in Martin’s name for every retweet the message received. It was retweeted by hundreds of people and mentioned in an article on gossip site US Weekly. The fake account @ReaiWiiiSmith compared the inequality of Martin’s murderer going free to the arrest of the woman who flour bombed reality star Kim Kardashian at a red carpet event on March 23rd.
WE live in America where a girl that threw flour on Kim Kardashian was arrested on site. But the man who KILLED Trayvon Martin is still free— Will Smith (@ReaIWiIISmith) March 23, 2012
Despite the fabricated nature of @WiiiSmith’s tweet, a screenshot of the message was tweeted out by Spike Lee and Rosie O’Donnell the next day. It also appeared on photo sharing site Sodahead and gossip blog Celebuzz. The path of retweets and mentions of @ReaiWiiiSmith’s tweet was compiled on Storifyon March 26th. Later that day, it was revealed that Will Smith doesn’t have a Twitter account and the activist who threw the flour at Kardashian was not arrested.
The amount of Tweets per hour using Martin’s name peaked on March 24th, the day after LeBron James tweeted out a photo of the Miami Heat with their hoods up to show their solidarity with Martin’s family. The Pew Researcher Center collected tweets between March 17th and March 28th, finding that 28% of them contained messages of outrage and calls for justice for Martin and his family.
March 19th: A Million Hoodies
Digital strategist Daniel Maree published a blog post and YouTube video on March 19th encouraging people to join him in wearing hoodies while marching to the United Nations in New York City on March 21st. Several hundred people attended the march on the 21st in Manhattan, which was covered by the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, and TIME. The New York City march sparked similar rallies under the banner Million Hoodie March in Philadelphia on March 23rd, and in both Los Angeles and Iowa on March 26th.
In addition to the demonstrations in real life, Maree asked viewers to post photos of themselves in hooded sweatshirts on social networking sites using the hashtag #millionhoodies. Several celebrities participated in the hashtag on Twitter including Sean Combs, Nelly and digital director of The Onion Baratunde Thurston. On Tumblr, the single topic blog I am Trayvon Martin was created on March 20th featuring photos of people wearing hoods, acquiring nearly 200 submissions within a week. Finally, six New York state lawmakers wore hoodies over their suits in the Capitol chambers on March 26th to protest Florida’s lack of action towards the case.
March 22nd: Geraldo Rivera’s Gaffe
Journalist and former talk show host Geraldo Rivera tweeted on March 22nd that Martin’s hoodie was just as much to blame as Zimmerman, his shooter. The next day, an article was published on Fox News Latino in which Rivera asserted that wearing a hoodie made him look “like a hoodlum” and “gave his assailant cause to think him the enemy.” That day, he also appeared on the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends to discuss this on air.3]
After the segment aired, many Twitter users including comedian Aziz Ansari tweeted about their disappointment with Rivera’s commentary. Buzzfeed pointed out that Fox News carried a hooded sweatshirt in their online store which disappeared from the shop within hours. The single topic blog Geraldo in a Hoodie was also created on March 23rd to gather photos of the journalist wearing hooded sweatshirts.
Three days later, Stephen Colbert commented on the situation, stating that Congress should pass strict hoodie control legislation. The following morning, Rivera apologized for his statement, noting that he did not intend to draw attention away from an unarmed teenager’s death.
March 23rd: #WeAreTrayvonMartin Hashtag
The hashtag #WeAreTrayvonMartin began gaining steam on Twitter when NBA athlete LeBron James tweeted a photo of the Miami Heat basketball team wearing sweatshirts with their hoods up on March 23rd. That day, a single topic blog titled “I Could Be Trayvon” was created, where users could submit photos of themselves wearing a hoodie or personal stories about times they have felt racially profiled because of their clothing.
Discussions on the racial profiling surrounding the case appeared in articles on Current and the Christian Science Monitor as well as a YouTube video by Howard University students. Floridian rapper Piles also uploaded a song titled “We Are Trayvon” that day, announcing it would be made available on iTunes March 27th with all the proceeds going to Martin’s family.
March 27th: Spike Lee’s Mistweet
On March 23rd, Los Angeles resident Marcus Higgins published several tweets from his account @MACCAPONE with an address that reportedly belonged to George Zimmerman. The tweets were sent to both personal contacts as well as several celebrities in an attempt to draw the public’s attention. It was finally retweeted by director Spike Lee, who had nearly 250,000 followers at the time. The residents at the address did not have any relation to the shooter. The George Zimmerman attributed to the residence is now 41-year-old William George Zimmerman, whose parents David and Elaine McClain currently live in the house.
After receiving a bag of Skittles in the mail in reference to Martin having bought a bag of Skittles on the night of his death, the couple felt threatened and were forced to leave their home. On the 28th, both Higgins and Spike Lee apologized to the couple on Twitter for posting the McClain’s address, however all accounts involved may be suspended for violating Twitter privacy rules that state users cannot post other people’s street addresses without their permission. The story was covered by the Smoking Gun, CBS News, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
March 27th: Martin’s Email Hacked
A white supremacist hacker known as “Klanklannon” posted a series of images to 4chan’s /pol/ (political) board, claiming they were from Martin’s personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. The screenshots, which painted Martin as if he was involved in drugs and illicit activity, were reposted on the Neo-Nazi forum Stormfront that day. Klanklannon also posted the login information for Martin’s accounts to that forum so other users could check them out for themselves.
Gawker broke the story on March 29th, revealing that the hacker also had a screenshot of Martin’s Gmail inbox, which he had been using to apply to colleges. The emails contained information on SAT test dates and scholarship applications. The story was quickly reposted on the Huffington Post, New York Magazine, and the Miami New Times.
March 28th: Leaked Police Surveillance Video
A CCTV footage of George Zimmerman’s detainment with the police was posted to ABC News and CNN on March 28th. It was submitted to the Politics subreddit that night, where it received 3037 upvotes and a total score of 1554. Several Redditors inspected the video to see if it corroborated with the claim that his head and face were both bloodied and the back of his shirt was wet and grass-stained at the time of his arrest. Redditor atsugman compiled a set of stills in which Zimmerman’s head does not appear to be bloodied at all.
April 11th: Arrest of Zimmerman
On April 11th, 2012, a special prosecutor was appointed to the case and she filed charges of murder in the second degree against Zimmerman, who then turned himself in. On April 20th, the judge approved Zimmerman’s bail on a $150,000 bond and he was released from jail three days later. At an arraignment held on April 23rd, Zimmerman’s attorney entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client.
Sometime in April 2012, photographs of people on the ground with a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea began surfacing on Facebook and Tumblr under the name “Trayvoning.” While it largely went unnoticed for about a month, the disturbing photo fad was picked up by Clutch Magazine and an article titled “Trayvoning: This Trend Has to Stop” was published on May 17th.
In the following week, links to two Facebook pages titled “Trayvoning” and photos began making the rounds on blogs like DailyDot, Christian Post and UPTOWN among others. Following the blog coverage of the photo fad, the Facebook pages were shut down but it has continued to spread on Tumblr, leading to an emotionally charged debate over its appropriateness.
Christian Science Monitor – Trayvon Martin Case: Is Hoodie a Symbol of Menace or Desire for Justice?
the Daily Beast – Trayvon Martin Killing Inspires 13 Tweets From Celebrities
Fox News Latino – Geraldo Rivera: Trayvon Martin Would Be Alive but for His Hoodie
The Huffington Post – Trayvon Martin ‘Million Hoodie March’ March Draws Hundreds In New York City
The Daily Beast – Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin in New York City (Photos)
Hollywood Reporter – Will Ferrell Fake Twitter Account Uses Trayvon Martin to Gain Followers
International Business Times – Spike Lee Twitter Gaffe Forces Elderly Couple Out Of Home, Did Not Do The Right Thing
The Daily Dot – Trayvon Martin killer’s story of self defense in question