ANOTHER 17-Year-Old Black Youth Gunned Down

A Modern-Day American Lynching

December 16, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


Jordan Davis
Jordan Davis

An unforgettable smile. That's what several family members reflected on at the funeral for Jordan Davis on Saturday, December 1. Hundreds of people came to the church in Powder Springs, just outside Atlanta, Georgia—Jordan's family and friends, including some high school classmates from Jacksonville, Florida—and many more people who didn't know Jordan but just came in support. One of the most moving parts of the service was when Jordan's uncle read a Father's Day note that Jordan had written to his dad. Fighting through tears, the uncle shared Jordan's words commanding his dad to make sure he lived many years so they could be together for a long time. Then Jordan's aunt, who lives in California, shared a wish Jordan had expressed to her last summer—that their large extended family, dispersed around the country, could come together sometime soon—maybe at his high school graduation. Instead, Jordan's father was burying his son, and the family came together not for his graduation, but for his funeral.

Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old Black youth, was murdered on November 23 in Jacksonville by Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old white man. According to news reports, Jordan and two friends were in an SUV parked at a convenience store while the driver was in the store getting some food after they had been shopping that Friday after Thanksgiving. Michael Dunn pulled into the lot with his girlfriend and, while she was in the store, he told Jordan and his friends to turn down their music. After a verbal exchange, Dunn pulled out a gun from his glove compartment and shot eight or nine times into the SUV. Two bullets hit and killed Jordan Davis. Dunn and his girlfriend drove away. Witnesses had reported Dunn's license plate and he was arrested at his house on Saturday, charged with murder and attempted murder. Dunn claimed he saw a shotgun in the SUV and was acting in self-defense. Jacksonville police reported that there were no weapons in the vehicle or at the scene.

Dunn's lawyer, Robin Lemonidis, told CNN that Dunn felt threatened because: "All he sees are heavily tinted windows, which are up and the back windows which are down, and the car has at least four Black men in it. And he doesn't know how old anybody is, he doesn't know anything, but he knows a shotgun when he sees one."

Lemonidis said the defense is considering citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. This is the same law that defenders of George Zimmerman cited after Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin last February in Sanford, Florida. Citing Kenneth Nunn, a professor of law and associate director of the Criminal Justice Center at the University of Florida, Florida Today said that Jordan Davis and his friends "didn't have to be armed for the law to apply." They quote Professor Nunn saying that " 'He [Dunn] doesn't have to prove that there was a gun, he only has to prove he believed there was a gun and that was a reasonable belief' and he felt threatened."

In the context of racially targeted mass incarceration in this country, and the criminalization and continual demonization of Black youth on TV and throughout the media, a law that says that killing someone can be justified if the killer "felt threatened"—that they simply believed there was a gun even if there wasn't one—amounts to nothing less than open season on killing Black youth. Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics show a tripling of justifiable homicides in Florida since Stand Your Ground became law, and a Wall Street Journal study showed a doubling across all states that have that law.

Trayvon Martin was supposedly a threat to George Zimmerman because he was a 17-year-old Black youth wearing a hoodie. Jordan Davis was supposedly a threat to Michael Dunn because he was a 17-year-old Black youth playing loud music. Just as the hoodie became a symbol and rallying cry in the outrage and resistance in the struggle for justice for Trayvon Martin, a call has been issued to "Turn Up the Music" in honor of Jordan Davis. One week after the murder, on Friday, November 30, radio station 93.3, The Beat Jamz in Jacksonville, announced that people should turn up their radios at 5 pm. Then the following Friday, this call was spread by radio stations in other cities including Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia. Outrage has been expressed in other ways too. In a dramatic salute, members of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department parked their water trucks along the runway where the plane carrying Jordan's body was taking off from Jacksonville to Atlanta for the funeral, and showered the plane, creating an arch of water for it to travel under.

"Stand Your Ground" laws have been passed in 24 states since Florida was the first to adopt it in 2005. In the wake of outrage around the murder of Trayvon Martin, Florida's Governor Rick Scott appointed a task force to evaluate the law, headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who co-sponsored the "Stand Your Ground" bill in 2005. The task force report came out two weeks before Jordan Davis was killed. Not surprisingly, the findings supported the law and only recommended some minor tweaks.

Ron Davis, Jordan's dad, has announced his plans to fight "Stand Your Ground" laws in Florida and around the country. In an interview on WTLV in Jacksonville, he said "I never dreamt being that, I'm 59 years old, that my son would go before me . . . It's so heartbreaking." And speaking about "Stand Your Ground," he said: "I want that taken out of the law books. I know that's an uphill battle. That's OK. I'm a fighter, so I'll fight to have that law taken out of the state of Florida and once it is taken out of the state of Florida, we will go to other states and get that out of other states also. . . I'm going to do something that brings my child the love and the respect that he deserves and that's the legacy he is going to leave is that he did something to unite and to bring about community activism. Everybody is going to be active in this, you know. Not just let this happen to our community."

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