by Linden Councilman Derek Armstead
We must remain peaceful no matter what [following Saturday night’s “not guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman] and getting angry is not the answer. Let’s not be blinded and lose sight of the real problem. Our dilemma is not the justice system here.
Instead of critiquing the jurors, we need to ask the tough question: Why was Trayvon Martin profiled? We need to look at the Trayvon Martin case as an opportunity to look at ourselves closely and openly engage in a sincere dialogue about the culture of our society.
Yes, it is a parent’s worst nightmare to know that your child was followed in the dark, in the rain by a stranger and then murdered. I cannot begin to imagine the fear in Trayvon’s eyes when he realized that he was been stalked by a stranger with a gun. Had Zimmerman remained in his car as directed by the police, a 17-year-old boy, a son to many, would be alive today.
As a father, I am heartbroken; this could have been my twin boys. But what we all must remember before we criticize the jurors over their decision is that in a court of law, they have to eliminate their personal feelings, examine the evidence presented and render a just verdict. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is placed on the prosecution and the presumption of innocence is granted to every defendant. This is based on the “Due Process” clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of a crime in order to convict a defendant. As heartbreaking as this case may be, what is more important for us to do right now is to sincerely examine our ourselves closely, and use this case as an opportunity find answers to the following questions “Why was Trayvon profiled to begin with?” “Why do we only come together in moments of crisis?” “Why don’t we support, respect and love one another?”
Until we are united as a people ( African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian ), support one another, embrace each other, the more things will remain the same and cases of injustice will continue to plague cities all over the country.
WE need to lead by example and demonstrate to our young people that we can disagree but still respect one another and work together regardless of race, gender and religion, for the greater good of our country.
WE need to put our differences aside and unite to fight for equal opportunities for all and not just a selected few so that cases like Trayvon could be a thing of the past.
We need to unite our efforts, seriously engage in dialogue and get down to the root causes of crime in America; which we all know has a lot to do with economics (poverty) and poor education.
Armstead represents Linden’s 4th Ward on the City Council.
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