Four years ago today, Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. The 17-year-old hadn’t committed any crimes. He was merely walking to his temporary home, Skittles in hand, when Zimmerman attacked him.
Although he wasn’t killed by police, Martin inspired the Black Lives Matter movement because his death — and the smear campaign waged against him — was a prime example of anti-black violence. His name has also come up in the presidential race.
His mother, Sybrina Fulton, just joined black mothers of other police and gun violence victims to support Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, because Clinton was listening to their stories when nobody else would.
“Nobody else listened to us,” she said at a campaign event in South Carolina this week. “She never made the first promise about what she’s going to do when she gets in office. What she did say was that she’ll make every effort to make change, and we believe that.”
Here’s a look at what the other presidential candidates — Democrats and Republicans — have said about Martin and his killer since 2012:
During a 2013 Congressional hearing about Stand Your Ground laws, Cruz offered his condolences to Fulton before discussing the merits of the jury system that acquitted Zimmerman. He criticized people for politicizing Martin’s death along racial lines and said Stand Your Ground laws aren’t racist.
“We have seen efforts to undermine the verdict of the jury and, more broadly, to inflame racial tensions that I think are sad and irresponsible. I recognize that for the family, you’re simply mourning the loss of your son, and I understand that. But there are other players who are seeking to do a great deal more, based on what happened that Florida night,” he said.
In late 2012, Trump expressed sadness about what happened to Martin on Showbiz Tonight.
“It’s terrible, what happened. Seventeen years old, and now there are all sorts of stories that don’t sound right. So something has to be done very quickly, because it really is a horrible situation.”
The next year, during an interview with Fox & Friends, Trump slammed Zimmerman’s character but backed the jury’s decision.
“I didn’t like the fact that Zimmerman was told to stay in his truck, don’t move, and he went out and he certainly moved,” Trump said. “This is not a guy who doesn’t deserve certain blame.”
“I don’t disagree with the verdict,” he clarified, when Fox hosts questioned his stance on the trial. “This has been really a traumatic verdict for the country.”
In 2013, Trump also posted a video on Instagram calling Zimmerman “nothing but trouble” and “no angel.”
In response to discussions of race surrounding Martin’s shooting and Zimmerman’s acquittal, Carson defended the country’s legal process.
“I understand why there’s a lot of outrage. You have a situation where you have a young black male walking home, not doing anything incorrect, and he ends up killed. And nobody suffers any consequences. On the surface, that would appear to be a gross miscarriage of justice,” he said on Fox News in 2013. “However, one also has to integrate into that the fact that we have a legal system in which we appoint jurors, in which they have access to all of the facts.”
When asked by Chris Wallace if racial profiling is the greatest threat to young black men, Carson responded “I don’t think it is.” He then explained that Martin’s inner city background could have triggered a “fight or flight” mentality that caused him to engage with Zimmerman.
During a 2012 press conference, Rubio said Martin’s death was a “tremendous tragedy,” while cautioning against rushing to judgment about the case. Rubio remained silent about the verdict, but has since been a staunch supporter of Florida’s permissive gun laws.
Clinton has been vocal about Martin’s death since the verdict was handed down in Zimmerman’s trial.
“My prayers are with the Martin family and with every family who loves someone who is lost to violence,” she told the (historically black) Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at its annual conference in 2013. “No mother, no father should ever have to fear for their child walking down a street in the United States of America.”
She also invoked Martin’s name during her criminal justice speech at Columbia University last April.
“We should begin by heeding the pleas of Freddie Gray’s family for peace and unity, echoing the families of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and others in the past years,” she said, calling for systemic reform. Clinton met with Fulton and the mothers of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Jordan Davis last November.
While Sanders has been an outspoken advocate for criminal justice and spoken out against police violence, he’s said little about Martin specifically. In what could be a reference to the Skittles Martin was holding, his racial justice platform says, “Today in America, if you are black, you can be killed for getting a pack of Skittles during a basketball game.”