I Have a Dream – Justice for Ethan

Fifty years ago today, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and spoke words that will forever be remembered and forever changed the civil and human rights movement. King’s dream to let freedom ring for all people, for all races, for all humanity, inspires us still and reminds us of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.

King spoke of discrimination and the scourge it is on society, but he also spoke of hope, of a brighter future, of a nation that “will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

So today, on this anniversary, indulge us to recount two recent tragedies bearing undercurrents of discrimination. One caused a firestorm of media coverage and stirred emotions across the nation. The other went largely unnoticed by the country at large, but has recently garnered some national attention. Both serve as important examples that more must be done to achieve true equality and justice.

By the end of February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin lay dead in Sanford, Florida. The 17-year-old African-American was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a member of the neighborhood watch. One year later, Zimmerman was acquitted of criminal charges in accordance with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows for the use of lethal force when an individual fears for his or her life.

On January 12, 2013, Ethan Saylor died at a movie theater in Frederick, Maryland. The 26-year-old who happens to have Down syndrome was taken to the ground by three off-duty deputies and handcuffed for failing to pay for a $12 ticket to rewatch “Zero Dark Thirty” and for resisting removal from the theater. His larynx was crushed and the coroner ruled it a homicide. Despite the homicide ruling, the grand jury concluded no excessive force was used, no charges of any nature have been filed, and the Governor of Maryland has refused to launch an independent investigation.

Both of these incidents are disturbing, tragic and worthy of a reassessment of the status quo.

Regardless of where one feels blame is due in the “Stand Your Ground” case, Martin’s death has led to national calls for a review of the laws. Should they be stricken? Or altered? Does anyone really feel that an unarmed teenager is now justifiably deceased?

Ethan SaylorEthan Saylor’s death deserves an equally important national dialogue. There are now national calls for better training for law enforcement officers on how to deal with the differently-abled. But the question remains, “If Ethan were ‘typical,’ would there be criminal charges filed or at least an independent investigation into his death?”

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., we can ask ourselves, What can we do to prevent these types of tragic deaths in the future? How can we ensure the death of these two young men were not in vain?

For Ethan, we can all join together and at least demand an independent investigation into his death. Something Governor O’Malley of Maryland has yet to do. With a proper investigation, we can know better what went wrong, if charges should be filed, or if training law enforcement officers on how to handle the differently-abled will prevent another tragic death like Ethan’s.

Ethan SaylorWe at Global don’t know what the future holds, but on this day of all days, we have a dream – justice for Ethan.

Act now for Justice for Ethan. Sign a petition calling for Governor O’Malley to launch an independent investigation. (Sign the petition by following the link and filling out the form on the upper right of the page.)

Read more about the Ethan Saylor case

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