The first Democratic candidate for president to commemorate Trayvon Martin on what would have been his 25th birthday came from an unexpected source: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, fresh from his impressive first- or second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses (depending on the final vote and delegate count alongside U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, yet to be announced Wednesday afternoon), wrote about Martin in a tweet.
“Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today,” Buttigieg wrote. “How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?”
Buttigieg added the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter”
Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today.
How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?#BlackLivesMatter
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 5, 2020
Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old visiting his father’s fiancée in Sanford, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in February 2012.
In 2013, a Seminole County jury acquitted Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot Trayvon after calling 911 and describing him as suspicious, sparking the “Black Lives Matter” movement and public protests in major cities across the United States.
Buttigieg, 38, has struggled with black voters since launching his presidential campaign last year, getting just 1% support among black voters in a Hill-HarrisX poll in January.
Buttigieg has also been criticized for his handling of racial issues in South Bend during his mayoralty, including the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in 2016 and his firing of black Police Chief Darryl Boykins in 2012 for allegedly recording white officers after accusing them of using racist language.
He also apologized for using the phrase “All Lives Matter” in 2015, a term used by critics of the BLM movement.
“What I did not understand at the time was that phrase was coming to be used as a sort of counter-slogan to ‘Black Lives Matter,'” Buttigieg told CNBC.
Since then, Buttigieg has been endorsed by both black mayors in Iowa and has looked to diversify his campaign staff, now 40% non-white.
Other Democratic candidates have spoken out about Martin in recent months, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of his mother, Sybrina Fulton, for a Miami-Dade County Commission seat.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was criticized last year by then-candidate Cory Booker, D-N.J., for saying, “We’ve got to recognize that the kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger.”
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Booker said in a tweet, “This isn’t about a hoodie. It’s about a culture that sees a problem with a kid wearing a hoodie in the first place. Our nominee needs to have the language to talk about race in a far more constructive way.”
Sanders was also criticized by Fulton, a Hillary Clinton supporter, in 2016 for saying many white Americans “don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto” and “don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”
“Sen. Sanders is wrong to suggest that the concept of the ghetto is inextricably connected to Black America, just as he was wrong to yet again defend his NRA-backed position on guns,” Fulton said.
This year, Sanders was endorsed by Dream Defenders, a Miami-based civil rights group formed following Martin’s death.
This story originally appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com.
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