Metro-East News

August 11, 2014

Tracy Martin urges calm after Ferguson shooting

Tracy Martin knows the pain a Ferguson, Mo., family and their community are feeling over the fatal shooting over the weekend of an 18-year-old unarmed black man.

Martin's son, Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch security guard, George Zimmerman, on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando.

The shooting sparked a national debate, and the case is strangely similar to the shooting of Michael Brown.

Witnesses said Brown was walking to his grandmother's house Saturday evening when he came in contact with a Ferguson police officer, and through that contact, Brown ended up losing his life. The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The incident sparked racial unrest, rioting and looting across North St. Louis County on Sunday night. More than three dozen people have been arrested.

Reached Monday by the News-Democrat, Martin called for peaceful protests in the wake of the shooting.

"The only way we can get to the bottom of this is that everyone remains calm. At the end of the day a family has lost their son. I am sure the family doesn't want a negative outcome." he said. "We have to let the lawmakers and politicians step up and do what they need to do. We also must continue to pray for the family and the families across this country who lose their kids in such a tragic way."

Brown's mother, Leslie McSpadden, is calling for justice for her son, saying he was not a drug dealer -- "not a bad guy." She said she struggled and made sure Brown graduated from high school.

She said many young black men feel their lives are not worth anything and it was hard to convince her son to stay in school and graduate, but he did it and then the police took his life.

Tracy Martin said his son was not a bad guy either. He said he will never let his memory die or his legacy to be written according to the court's verdict. Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in Trayvon's death.

Martin, who once lived in East St. Louis, said when the incident in Ferguson happened, he received phone calls from friends in St. Louis who told him about the officer-involved shooting.

"They asked me to reach out to the Brown family. I sent my condolences to them through my attorney, Benjamin Crump, who is going to represent their family," Martin said.

Martin said it's tragic for a mother or father to see their child killed.

"Anytime you take someone's life, it's hurtful to the community, too, especially African-American kids because we are becoming extinct," Martin said.

Martin said this is a huge problem in society. "No one respects the value of our children's lives. Our children's lives are of equal value to that of others," he said.

He said he feels that the situation in Ferguson will hurt race relations, adding, "this country is afraid to discuss racism."

"We as a country fail to realize that racism is alive and well. African-Americans are not afraid to talk about it because we have always been on he short end of the stick."

Asked whether he felt the police officer stereotyped Brown, he said, "I can't say what was in the mind of the police officer. But, we definitely are labeled as being thugs because of our appearance. We have the right to wear our clothes, hair and shoes the way we want to. We have freedom of speech."

Martin had advice for the Brown family:

"Lean on God because at the end of the day nothing they say or do can bring the life of their son back. They have to let God control the situation," he said.

Asked about his feelings about the rioting and looting and burning of buildings that took place after what started out as a peaceful protest Sunday evening, Martin said he doesn't think the community should go out and loot because the businesses they are looting are in the neighborhood where they live.

But he cautioned: "All of this police brutality has to stop. The police officers who are committing these heinous crimes should be held accountable."

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