At Trayvon Martin’s barbershop in Miami Gardens, waiting, watching for a verdict

07/13/2013 5:37 PM

07/13/2013 9:24 PM

At Flat Tops & Fades Barbershop in Miami Gardens, clippers buzzed Saturday beneath the sound of two television sets tuned to the HLN network, the barbers’ choice for nonstop news on the George Zimmerman trial.

Here, the customers’ attention was focused on the continuing jury deliberations in the case, now in their second day.

But this isn’t just any barbershop. It was Trayvon Martin’s barbershop since he was a toddler.

On this day, there were many questions asked aloud and to no one in particular. Will the jury find Zimmerman guilty or not guilty of killing Trayvon? If he gets the lesser charge of manslaughter, how long will his sentence be? If he goes to prison, will he be forced to stay in solitary confinement because the case is so well known?

The chatter came from all directions: Young boys and men. Mothers waiting on their sons. Even the barbers themselves.

Many of the clients declined to be interviewed by a Miami Herald reporter — their pain, they say, is still too raw.

Trayvon’s barber, Steve Bass, called the teen “one of ours.”

“Everybody who comes through here is rooting and hoping it goes the way it’s supposed to, which is in Trayvon’s favor,” Bass said. “Plain and simple, Zimmerman was wrong.”

On his phone, Bass has a photo of Trayvon he shares with those who ask. It’s a young Trayvon as a toddler, Bass said.

In the photo, Trayvon’s afro is pulled into a ponytail as he awaits a haircut in Bass’s barber chair.

“He used to come here every week and get a haircut. We definitely have a connection to him and his family,” said another barber who goes by the name JRaw.

Trayvon, who was shot and killed by Zimmerman in the Central Florida town of Sanford last year, grew up in the Miami Gardens neighborhood. The death of the unarmed teen — and the six-week delay in any criminal charges being filed against Zimmerman — sparked angry public protests and a re-examination of race in America.

Zimmerman has said he acted in self-defense after Martin attacked him. But some argue that local authorities initially went easy on Zimmerman because Martin, 17, was black.

Zimmerman is Hispanic.

In the current deliberations, jurors must decide whether to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder, the lesser charge of manslaughter, or to find him not guilty.

Historically, barbershops like Flat Tops & Fades have been a place where customers gather and speak freely, and anyone could join in on a conversation.

In the past few weeks, Bass said his clients have echoed the same sentiment.

“They ask, ‘Do we have any hope?’” Bass said.

Miami Herald Staff Writer Michael Vasquez contributed to this report.

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