Black Fraternity hosts vigil on Quad to honor Trayvon Martin

For the second time this week, University students held a vigil in honor of Trayvon Martin on Wednesday night.

The controversial death, shrouded by the topics of use of force and racial tensions, continues to grab national and local attention.

On Feb. 26, Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla. by 28-year-old George Zimmermann. According to reports, Zimmermann was found with a handgun while Martin was unarmed.

Zimmermann said he acted in self-defense.

The African-American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha set up the vigil, which included a silent lap around the Quad, spoken word performances and guest speakers. Chapter president Hameed Bello, senior in LAS, said he did not participate in the first vigil on Monday; but he said his fraternity decided to help out after hearing that Trayvon Martin’s family is trying to raise more awareness.

“We recognized it was a situation that we had seen happen before,” Bello said. “It provides a platform for African-American students on campus and as well as other minorities. The vigil provides attention to a situation that is very prominent.”

The policy in question is the “stand your ground” law. As many as 25 states have some form of the law, according to San Francisco-based group Legal Community Against Violence. According to Florida statutes, these types of laws justify using deadly force in order to prevent death or “great bodily harm.”

Sgt. Brian Ingram, with Illinois State Police District 10, said while Illinois has laws that give victims the right to use force when necessary, the laws are not identical to the Florida statutes.

“The Florida ‘stand your ground’ laws are unique to that state,” Ingram said.

According to the Illinois statutes, a person is justified to use force against another when he feels it is necessary to defend himself against unlawful actions. However, such self-defense is only valid if there is reasonable belief that it would prevent death or injury.

This law applies also to people defending their own property or someone else’s.

In both cases, use of deadly force on an aggressor is only justified when there is reasonable belief that it would stop the aggressor from further committing a forcible felony. And in the case of a dwelling, the intruder must have also made or attempted entry in a “violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner.”

As for the case of concealed weapons, which has also raised questions in the Martin case, Ingram said Florida’s stance is its responsibility. Illinois, he added, has a ban on both the concealed and open carrying of weapons.

“Illinois is the only state in the country with such a law banning concealed weapons,” Ingram said.

Bello said the African-American community on campus has taken great interest in the case.

Alexis Pope, treasurer of the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and senior in media, said she believes race is the key issue.

“If it was a white male in Trayvon’s place, and the shooter was black, I feel they would have arrested him right then and there,” Pope said.

Bello added that race is an issue but not the only factor, saying that the laws in question are as much to blame.

“I feel it is more of a mixture of both,” Bello said. “We know there is a racial thing; we’ve always tried to overcome it for a long time. The thing is that history always repeats itself. There’s always remnants of a situation that come back to haunt us in different places.”