17:04 GMT11 April 2021
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    An argument outside a Florida convenience store last Thursday ended with a black man shot dead and his white killer protected by Stand Your Ground. Now, activists are calling attention to the double standard applied to people of different races in relation to the infamous law.

    The entire incident was captured on store surveillance footage.

    On July 19, 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton drove to a Clearwater convenience store for some snacks. He parked in a handicapped spot, leaving his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, and two of his kids in the car; he took his 5-year-old son inside with him. While the two were inside, Jacobs was approached by 47-year-old Michael Drejka, who yelled at her for parking in a handicapped spot without a permit, CBS reported.

    McGlockton rushed out of the store to his family's aid, shoving Drejka to the ground. Drejka is then seen in the video sitting up and reaching to his hip for a weapon — a concealed handgun, for which he had a permit — and pointing it at McGlockton. As McGlockton retreated, Drejka fired a single shot at his chest, and McGlockton stumbled into the convenience center, where he collapsed in front of his son and died.

    The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has said Drejka is protected by Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to use deadly force if they fear "imminent death or great bodily harm." They aren't required to try and escape the situation.

    "He had to shoot to defend himself," Pinellas county sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, CBS reported. "And those are the facts, and that's the law."

    Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary spoke with Ruth Beltran, an activist and organizer with Black Lives Matter Tampa and the ANSWER [Act Now to Stop War and End Racism] Coalition.

    ​Beltran told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon that the video footage of the incident is extremely valuable to the cause of winning justice for McGlockton.

    "We do have video of the incident so that we are able to see what happened, and we are left with more than just the story of the shooter. We can see in the video how the shooter, Drejka, was actually looking for a confrontation and confronted Ms. Britany, who is the partner of Markeis, who is the victim in this case, for parking in a handicap parking spot. It's very difficult to see that now that he is gone as a result of that, he has left behind a 5 [year-old], a 4 [year-old], and a 3-month-old baby, and I feel that the family is right to be demanding justice in this case and to be demanding that Drejka, the shooter, is actually arrested and that he is brought to justice for the shooting in this case."

    "I think the video speaks for itself," Beltran said. "He did push him, but in the video we can also see Markeis pause, we can see him back up, but we don't see a second attack. We can also see in the video the shooter pause, pausing before taking that shot. And the sheriff actually acknowledged that pause. So he didn't shoot right away, he did pause before taking that shot. There was not a second attack here."

    "Like DL Hughley said, ‘The most dangerous place for black people to be is in white people's imagination.'"


    Beltran explained how black people in the US are not given "the right of innocence" in the media and are presumed to be criminals, which shapes how they are treated differently in society.

    "What we have now, as you can see, we have white people playing vigilantes and harassing other people under the protection of this Stand Your Ground law, which is a problem. We know that Drejka, other people have reported and I, personally, spoke to the store owner, who confirmed that Drejka has a history of coming to the store and harassing people for parking in that parking spot."

    Jacobs spoke with "Good Morning America" on Monday, saying that "[Drejka] wanted somebody to be angry at. He just wanted someone to fight him… He was picking a fight."

    "So, let's say that Markeis did break the law for parking in the handicapped parking spot. That should have been a $255 ticket; he should not have paid for that with his life," Beltran noted.

    Florida statute 776.012, better known as Stand Your Ground, is an extension of the castle doctrine that went into effect in October 2005. It says, "A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony."

    Further, "A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be."

    Harvard professor and expert on Stand Your Ground Caroline Light point out to The New York Times that "the video would suggest it's actually not reasonable for [Drejka] to fear for his life."

    The law is most notorious for having protected George Zimmerman when he was charged with second-degree murder for his killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. However, as The Root points out, the law's protection was notably not extended to Marissa Alexander, a black woman who fired a shot into the air in 2010 as a warning to her approaching abusive husband. Alexander was initially given a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison for aggravated assault, but was later released after three years in prison under a plea bargain that capped her sentence at time already served.

    Sputnik News' Bob Schlehuber reported earlier this year about another case in Florida, the killing of DJ Broadus II, near Jacksonville. "Florida has, to me, a bizarre and inappropriate self-defense law called Stand Your Ground. A part of that law basically tells law enforcement officers: you may not arrest unless you can disprove that defendant or potential defendant was acting under Stand Your Ground… It is a stupid law they enacted over 10 years ago. People walk away from all kinds of things because of this stupid law," Florida state attorney William Cervone told Sputnik. A local petition is gaining strength, pushing the state's attorney to press charges against Gardner Kent Fraser for Broadus' February shooting death on Fraser family land.

    Like Fraser, Drejka has not even been detained in connection with the respective shooting, about which no real investigation has been performed.

    "Race definitely plays a role in Stand Your Ground law cases in Florida," Beltran said. "A Tampa Bay analysis analyzed about 200 cases, I believe this was one of the first analyses to examine the role of race in Stand Your Ground law cases, and it found that people who kill a black person walk free 73 percent of the time, while those who kill a white person went free 59 percent of the time. So we must look at this in the context of race and how it is applied." She noted that other studies have also shown the shown disparities in how white and black people are treated in the criminal justice system.

    Beltran talked about what can be done to fight back against Stand Your Ground and other laws that she called "racist," and to begin to push for their repeal. "Public outcry is most important. It's very important that we continue to organize as we have been doing. I'm very grateful that we have been able to connect with the family down here and to be able to provide support for their immediate needs."

    "Right now we do have a petition going around in order to put pressure on the state's attorney to bring charges against Drejka and to conduct a full investigation of this case. We also have a fundraiser for the family. As you know, the partner, who was Markeis' sweetheart, is now left with three small children; they had a very young family. We also have the grieving mother and the grieving father. I am very happy about the march that we had the other day where hundreds were able to come together and show support for this family and also show outcry and let law enforcement know and the state's attorney know that this was someone who was loved in the community, this was a loved community member and father, and that this unjust law must be repealed, and that we demand justice. The public and the family demand justice in this case."

    "Should someone pay with their life for that offense? Should someone be arrested for simple things? And the answer is ‘no,'" Beltran said.

    "He was a good man, and all he was trying to do was protect his family," Jacobs told CBS of her partner McGlockton. "I just want justice. I need something to be done, because this is not right."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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