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Trayvon Martin case is a black eye for Sanford

As public scrutiny mounts, the city of Sanford struggles with its reputation

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Nothing will bring Trayvon Martin back to his family. But what happened is not right, no matter the color of the perpetrator or the victim. “If you make everyone in this case green, what happened is not right,” Jackson says. So the family can only hope that Martin's death will not be in vain.

“His life meant something,” Jackson says. “And we hope that his legacy will mean something, too.”

Dennis Andre Williams was just 37 when he was shot to death in 2010 while holding his 8-month-old son in his arms.

“He bled to death in the street, holding his baby to his chest,” his aunt, Belle Cotton, told the NAACP when it was her turn to talk at Allen Chapel. The case has never been solved. She says the first investigating officer didn't do much with the case, and the family was hopeful when a new officer was assigned to look into it. “But then they kept giving him new cases and putting the investigation off,” she says. “I don't really feel we're getting anywhere with it, and every time we go down, they just tell us ‘We're getting closer.'”

Sanford police also failed to respond to an inquiry about where they are with the investigation of Williams' case, but according to February media reports about the two-year-old murder, the police were seeking “new leads” in the case. Cotton and her family say they felt that police never seemed very interested in solving the case to begin with. Without any response from the Sanford police, it's hard to determine whether that's true. But in the wake of Trayvon Martin's murder, perception that the police just don't care seems to be the dominant one. And that may be all that matters right now, because in this case, perception is a big part of the problem.

“I feel that if my nephew had been another race, something would have been done,” Cotton says. “I've been in this community all my life and I've seen so many innocent young black men killed and nothing is done about it. It's always swept under the rug. … It pierces my heart to think that this kind of thing goes on and that it could continue if we don't do something.”

Hannibal Duncan concurs: “In this society, the freest country on the planet, you shouldn't have to feel like you've got to wait for the NAACP and the Urban League to come to town to get equal justice,” he told Ben Jealous. “I just hope when the media circus dies down, you don't forget. Because this is an ongoing situation.”

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