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"When I say the name Trayvon Martin, does it mean anything to you?" Melissa Harris-Perry asked her MSNBC audience on Saturday. "If it doesn't, it should."
Harris-Perry then took some time to explain who Trayvon Martin is: a 17-year-old, unarmed black teenager who was allegedly shot and killed by a man in Florida in late February, after the man saw him walking down a street and thought he looked suspicious. The case has attracted substantial attention, in part because the man, George Zimmerman, has admitted to shooting Martin but has not been arrested or charged with any crime.
She played portions of the 911 call Zimmerman made to police, where he said that "something was wrong" with Martin, that he seemed to be "on drugs" and was "walking around and looking about."
"Walking around and looking about," Harris-Perry said. "That's what Zimmerman found so suspicious about Trayvon."
Zimmerman then followed Martin, and an altercation allegedly ensued. Harris-Perry pointed out that it is unclear what exactly happened between the two men — other 911 calls record screams that neighbors say were made by Martin — but that Zimmerman has remained free because of a law that allows people to use "deadly force" if they think their lives are in danger.
"Laws like that make modern-day vigilantism that can have these kind of tragic consequences," she said. "Too many young black men are losing their lives to mistaken identity and overzealous assumptions about their criminal intent."
Harris-Perry closed the segment with a forceful plea to her audience.
"Despite Zimmerman having injuries consistent with self-defense, he also had a gun," she said. "Trayvon had a bag of Skittles. His name is Trayvon Martin. When innocent children are killed, when their parents are left to wonder if their children's lives matter at all, at least we can remember their names."