Friday, July 19, 2013

"The Gun'shine State"

Over 1200 peaceful protesters marched from Lake Eola to the Orange County Courthouse on Wednesday July 17th to honor Trayvon Martin the 17 year old who went to the store to get some skittles and was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford. George Zimmerman had been found not guilty around 10pm this past Saturday by an all female jury in the shooting. Shock and outrage swept the nation.  Protests turned violent in Los Angeles and Oakland, California and across the nation this week. There were no reported problems at the Orlando march. Helicopters  grew louder as the protest approached the courthouse. It had been raining hard as I walked towards the courthouse but the storm clouds passed allowing me to sketch when I arrived.

As protesters filled the plaza in front of the courthouse, they chanted, "What do we want?" and everyone replied "Justice". "When do we want it?!" "NOW!!" Protesters carried signs saying, "No Justice, No Peace" and "We are Trayvon." Some protesters wore hoodies which is what Trayvon wore when he was profiled by Zimmerman as someone up to no good.

Natalie Jackson, an attorney for Trayvon's parents urged protesters to "vote and raise your voices against Florida's 'stand your ground' law". This law makes it possible for a vigilante to be innocent if they at anytime feel threatened. Travon tried to run, but Zimmerman followed. At some point the teen had to defend himself, but he had no weapon, Zimmerman did. The law needs to change.  Florida is once more a joke because of its warped and backwards justice system. Olumide Ajileye shouted out, from the courthouse steps, "Everyone needs to get involved, this does not end today!"

Someone told me that Zimmerman might even make money on this travesty by suing an NBC show that edited down the 911 call he made on the night of the shooting. The edited audio made it seem obvious that Zimmerman was profiling the black teenager. Zimmerman could become a multi millionaire in a civil case against the media. Reader, Abbe Wise Arenson , suggested a new state motto, which she picked up from a pundit, "gun'shine state" - we need reform!

Police officers kept walking over to see what I was up to. The first officer liked the sketch and each officer in turn came over to look as word spread.  I was just glad they didn't tell me to get out of the bushes where I was sitting. When the hour long rally ended, protesters quietly drifted away. When I was two blocks away, I realized I forgot my umbrella  back where I had been sketching, When I returned it was still there. I had to get to a final dress rehearsal for "Violin(ce)" at the Shakespeare Theater.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Thor said...

This is a private e-mail from a reader. She agreed to share it online...

"I have always enjoyed seeing your sketches and reading your commentary. I have always found you to bring light to so many community activities that are so noteworthy. I was so disappointed to see “The Gun’shine State”.

I really wish you had watched the trial. Your information is not accurate. Those six women did watch the entire trial and they gave four weeks of their life to concentrating on the facts that you have trampled upon. They followed the law given to them. They deserve respect for their service.

Please remember that George Zimmerman was a resident of a neighborhood plagued with break-ins. Have you ever had your house broken into—all of your valuables taken, including sentimental items that can never be replaced? Trayvon Martin was a visitor to the neighborhood, out after dark, in the rain, with marijuana in his system. He did not try to run. When asked what he was doing, he chose to confront. He smashed an adult in the face and slammed his head on the ground. He was 17 years old, not the 14 year old in the picture that is repeatedly shown. There are consequences for your actions—both for Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. I wish the outcome were different. I wish Trayvon had said he was visiting and gave the address. I wish Trayvon had just gone on his way to the home he was visiting. As we know from the Mississippi visitor whose son punched him in the face at Dave and Busters recently, the consequences of Trayvon’s actions could have been different as well.

Please remember too that this was not a “stand your ground” case. It was self-defense and would have been presented the same with or without the “stand your ground” law. If it were a “stand your ground” case, there would have been a hearing and if it was found to be “stand your ground”, the case would have been dismissed. This was not a profiling case—unless you want to call the profile “in the dark, in the rain, not recognized as a resident, hyped up on drugs”.

When I see a small child on the news saying “I am Trayvon”, I just cringe. Instead of teaching these children there are consequences to the choices you make, that you should show respect to an adult asking a perfectly reasonable question, and that drugs make you do things you would not normally do, we are teaching that this has to do with race. How will we ever put race differences behind us if we keep making everything about race. I understand the pain that Trayvon’s parents feel. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would be irrelevant if there were no racial issue to drum up. They are telling Trayvon’s parents exactly what to do and they keep driving the court of public opinion with false information. They are doing so much harm. Why do we let them keep doing this?

Thank you for letting me express my disappointment. I look forward to seeing more of your fine sketches highlighting children and adults behaving in a manner that we can adulate."

- Linda Wright

Thor said...

Dear Linda,

Thanks for your interest in my sketches and commentary. Unfortunately due to work, I couldn't watch the entire trial. I have sketched the public outrage and demonstrations from the start. Had there been George Zimmerman support rallies, I would have sketched those as well.

I agree that the jurors followed the law given to them. I didn't say that I disrespected their service.

From the 911 call, George Zimmerman stated, "Hey, we've had some break ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy...", so yes I knew that there had been break ins. Since you ask, I have been robbed and had valuables taken, including sentimental items that can not be replaced. I don't see how that is pertinent. Are you saying Trayvon was responsible for the break ins? What evidence points to that?

Treyvon had 2 choices,fight or flight when he was followed by someone he didn't know. He did try to run, "These assholes always get away." "Shit, he's running." stated George Zimmerman on 911. George was told not to follow, yet he did.

I agree that there should be consequences for your actions. Trayvon died because of his actions that night. Only 2 people truly know what happened and one is dead. The verdict offers no consequences for George's actions. That is what is so shocking. Perhaps if he was a policeman I'd feel differently but probably not. I don't see how the Dave and Busters incident,or how a trace of marijuana in his system justifies Trayvon's death

I know it isn't a stand your ground case, but the lawyer at the demonstration brought up the point. It is being talked about across the country.

Quite simply if George Zimmerman had let the police do their job, Trayvon would be alive and we wouldn't be discussing these points.

You seem to imply that I'm presenting false information, but as always, I just related what happened at the demonstration as I sketched.

As an artist I focus mostly on the inspiring creative work done in Orlando and Central Florida. But I can't turn my back when such a heated case happens. Though we disagree, I hope you return as I continue to search for the best in human nature.


D. Renée Wilson said...

As a fellow artist and an admirer of your work, I applaud you for sketching the demonstration and posting your personal opinions. While I agree that the arts should aim to capture best in humanity, those moments do not shine as brightly when they are not juxtaposed with the darker parts of life.
Art, like life, isn't all sunshine. As always, kudos, Thor.

Anonymous said...

ffer13Miss Wright says that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are "driving the court of public opinion with false information. They are doing so much harm. Why do we let them keep doing this?"

And yet, she presents a number of items as "facts" that are pure conjecture, for example: "He did not try to run. When asked what he was doing, he chose to confront."

She thinks"that you should show respect to an adult asking a perfectly reasonable question" but she doesn't know for a fact that's what happened between George and Trayvon. She doesn't know who confronted who or whether or not George's gun was drawn, yet she feels fine to lecture a dead young man about what he should have done.

I wonder who is feeding her "false information" and why she so easily accepts it. We only have George Zimmerman's version of the truth. We do not have the full story.

I also wonder why she thinks that Trayvon had to pay because there were burglaries in the neighborhood or someone hit some at Dave & Busters.

I wonder why she thinks that only Trayvon should deal with the consequences of his actions, but George should not. I'd like to hear what she has to say about these things.

But most of all I'd like her to step off her moral high ground. Because she very obviously doesn't belong there. And in my opinion there is something really wrong with her if she feels the need to criticize an artist who is presenting what he saw and heard for himself.

I look forward to more of Linda Wright's posts when she writes in "a manner we can adulate."