Local/State

Chapel Hill leaders hold forum on Trayvon Martin case

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chapel Hill town leaders talked Thursday evening about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and whether it could happen here.

The Justice in Action Committee organized the discussion. They said the purpose was not to re-litigate the case but to continue the conversation, and ask how did this happen.

"Why was Trayvon Martin a suspect," asked Orange County Public Defender James Williams Jr.

It was one of several subjects that surfaced while talking about the case.

"I think that's part of the way we heal and the way we process information to think about how it might apply in our lives," said Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue.

"We wanted to talk about racial profiling in both law enforcement and just among general members of the community," said the Justice in Action Committee

Self-defense and gun violence were also topics, but racial profiling in particular captivated the dozens inside the library conference room.

The panel included the town police chief, a public policy professor, an activist, a local teacher and a UNC student sharing an experience when a Caucasian classmate thought he was stalking her.

"When I was going back to my dorm, which was in the same route as her dorm she had asked me where I was going and I said 'My dorm' and them she asked me where I lived to see if I was actually a student here," said UNC student Matthew Taylor.

Trade the female classmate for George Zimmerman and some might argue the reaction to a similar scenario lead to Martin's death. At the root several say is a perceived threat.

"There are very few young males of color who don't run into some action of the police and they have no clue on how they should respond," said Chapel Hill resident Just Allah.

Others believe stronger gun laws would make incident's like Martin's less likely.

"We've seen more guns deaths in our country at the hands of more guns," said Kaaren Haldeman, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "So, in our opinion, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is very strong on this: Stronger regulation will help curb those deaths."

One teacher on the panel said she's actually teaching her students how to not be confrontation when it comes to dealing with authorities.

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