REST IN POWER
How the Trayvon Martin Case Helped Trump Win Florida
A new clip from ‘Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story’ shows the political ramifications of the tragic shooting, and how it may have helped Trump win the election.
The series finale of Rest in Power, the six-part docuseries about Trayvon Martin’s murder, leaves viewers with a harsh dose of reality: the same tragedy that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement may have also helped Donald Trump become president.
In a new clip premiering here The Daily Beast, Florida-based Politico reporter Marc Caputo explores the surprising domino effect that sprang from the 17-year-old’s murder to a presidential election four years later.
“The Trayvon Martin case had local backlash but what I thought was interesting was there was also political backlash in the 2016 presidential election, which we didn’t foresee,” said Caputo in the video from the series’ final episode, set to air Monday, September 10 on the Paramount Network and BET.
In 2012, Trayvon Martin was unarmed, wearing a dark gray hoodie, carrying a bag of Skittles when he was shot and killed in a Sanford, Florida gated community by George Zimmerman.
The gun-toting neighborhood-watch leader was first charged with second-degree murder after national protests, but was later acquitted of the charge after evoking Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. (Though, ultimately, he claimed he was restrained when he shot Martin, making Stand Your Ground irrelevant to his case.) That law, first enacted in 2005, defends an individual’s right to fire a gun in public in an act of self-defense, and is often praised by gun-rights activists. The first episode of Rest in Power looked back at how National Rifle Association lobbyists were instrumental in passing that rule.
Produced by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, Rest in Power does not not provide any new information in Martin’s story, instead taking an in-depth look at the shooting more than six years later—and holding a mirror to race relations in America today. Using interviews with Martin’s parents, top civil-rights lawyers, journalists, and law-enforcement officials, the series seeks to debunk the myth that America became “post-racial” after electing President Obama in 2008.
The tragic Martin shooting and Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal led to widespread protests and sparked a nationwide movement that has only grown as more shootings of unarmed black men and boys have found the national spotlight. And, in some ways, Rest in Power suggests, it also stoked political and racial division—especially in the Sunshine State.
“The white turnout for Trump in certain [Florida] counties was unexpectedly large,” Caputo explained in the clip. “We didn’t expect him to run up the score the way we did. But in hindsight it might not surprise us so much that he did.”
Trump’s stunning 2016 win in Florida served a microcosm of the general election: despite losing to Hillary Clinton in the urban areas of southern Florida, he dominated in every other corner of the state and eventually won by 1.4 percentage points, or 134,000 votes.
In Seminole County—the third-densest county in the state and the one where Trayvon Martin was shot—Trump won by 3,529 votes. The president seemingly hit home with older, white, and blue-collar Florida voters, eventually outperforming past Republican candidates and surprising even the most seasoned political strategists in the state.
As Caputo explained: “In Florida, the Trayvon Martin case unalterably changed our politics. These very kind of raw racial issues came to the fore and that didn’t benefit the Democratic Party apparently as much as it did Donald Trump.”
The series finale of Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story airs Monday, September 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on both the Paramount Network and BET.