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Over the past few weeks Hollywood and, especially social media, have played important roles in the building outrage over the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and the freedom of his killer, George Zimmerman. What was a quiet, late-February case in the small town of Sanford has become a national flashpoint, both for those advocating the arrest of the allegedly-racist Zimmerman and bigger picture observers who want to use the case as an opportunity to open a discussion about gun laws, race and equality.
Checking all the boxes, both in medium in message, is director Spike Lee.
He’s no stranger to advocacy for racial justice, of course, with many of his films and documentaries dealing with color and class in America, but through Twitter, Lee has found an instant outlet for his message and a megaphone with which to project the words and protestations of his followers.
Since the Martin case hit the national spotlight, Lee has tweeted out his own calls for Zimmerman’s arrest and condemnations of a country that has yet to prosecute him.
“America The Beautiful,A Country Where A Black Teenager Can Be Shot And Killed Coming From A 7-Eleven Buying A Ice Tea And A Bag Of Skittles,” he tweeted out last week, while adding, “Why Is George Zimmerman Still FREE?WTF?” this weekend.
But for the most part, Lee has engaged with others, supporters and detractors alike.
Over the past 12 hours, Lee has tweeted 300 times about the case, most of them being retweets of fans and advocates from around the world demanding justice. With hoodies now a cultural symbol of resistance in the case, following Geraldo Rivera‘s accusation that Martin’s wearing of a hoodie the night he was shot made him a “gangsta” target, Lee has encouraged and retweeted photos of people wearing the hooded sweatshirts, with pictures coming from Sweden, Scotland, Japan and other far-flung countries.
Lee helped spread the protest clothing meme, tweeting photos of professional athletes wearing them — the Miami Heat took a team photo in hoodies last Friday — and even a picture of his young son Jackson wearing the top.
There has been some backlash; the director has responded to various charges of reverse-racism and other angry accusations, and there was a slight uproar when he tweeted Zimmerman’s home address. One follower threatened to tweet Lee’s own home address, to which he responded, “Tweet it, big guy.”
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