On April 16, 2007, our nation suffered its deadliest shooting incident ever by a single gunman when a student killed 32 people and wounded 25 others at Virginia Tech University before committing suicide. Five years later, have we learned anything about controlling our national gun and gun violence epidemic? A look at just a few of the sad headlines across the country so far this year suggests we haven’t learned much, if anything at all.
In February of this year, a 17-year-old high school senior, who other students described as an outcast who’d been bullied, shot and killed three fellow students and injured two more at Chardon High School in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Would this have happened without a gun?
In Washington state, three children were victims of gun violence during a three-week period at the end of February and at the end of March. A three-year-old died after shooting himself in the head with a gun left under the front seat of the car while his family stopped for gas. The 7-year-old daughter of a police officer was shot and killed by her younger brother after he found one of their father’s guns in the glove compartment of the family van. And an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded at school when her 9-year-old classmate brought in a gun he found at home that accidentally went off in his backpack. Would this have happened without a gun?
There already has been a rash of shootings in Chicago this year, including the especially violent weekend in mid-March when 49 people were shot and 10 were killed. One of the victims was a 6-year-old girl who was sitting on her front porch with her mother getting her hair brushed before a birthday party when she was killed by shots fired from a passing pickup truck. Would this have happened without a gun?
And in Florida, unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed walking home from the store in February after being followed by self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” George Zimmerman. Would Trayvon’s death have happened without a gun? Now that George Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, Trayvon Martin’s family is finally moving forward in their quest for justice.
As a nation we can’t afford to keep waiting for common-sense gun control laws that would protect our children and all of us from indefensible gun violence. It’s time to repeal senseless gun laws such as the “Stand Your Ground” laws enacted by 21 states. The laws have grabbed so much attention in Trayvon’s case and allow people in Florida to defend themselves with deadly force anytime and anywhere if they feel threatened. More than 2 million people have signed online petitions saying they want to repeal these laws. It’s time to require consumer safety standards and childproof safety features for all guns and strengthen child access prevention laws that ensure guns are stored safely and securely to prevent unnecessary tragedies like those in Washington state. And in a political environment where the too secretive and powerful advocacy group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushed “Stand Your Ground” laws in other states along with other “model bills” that benefit some corporate bottom lines or special interests such as the NRA, it’s time for all of ALEC’s corporate sponsors to walk away from enabling or acquiescing destructive laws that protect guns, not children.
It’s a tragedy that five years after Virginia Tech so little has changed. How many years must we wait until tragic headlines about school shootings, children dying, and people using the “shoot first and ask questions later” defense to take the law into their own hands go away? When will we finally get the courage to stand up as a nation and say enough to the deadly proliferation of guns and gun violence that endanger children’s and public safety? — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
I didn’t know this was National Cut and Run Week. I guess I didn’t get the memo.
Rick Santorum got it, and at long last decided to get out of the race for the Republican nomination before suffering another embarrassing loss in his home state of Pennsylvania. Which brings me to a side point: just how did we get to be Zippy the Pinhead’s ‘home state’ in the first place? He was born in Virginia, where his family still resides. He (presumably) pays taxes in Virginia, and if his kids weren’t home schooled to keep them away from free thinkers, they’d probably be educated in Virginia. He lived in Pennsylvania long enough to purchase property and run for office.
Apparently, just buying a home somewhere makes you a born-again native. Well, you can claim him if you want, but speaking as a native Pennsylvanian, I refuse to accept him as a neighbor. We have more than our fair share of reality-challenged dullards as it is.
I will admit, though, that getting out now was about the smartest thing Zippy’s done in the past few months. If he’d held on past next Tuesday, and probably taken a butt whipping in Pennsylvania in the process, the next several news cycles would have been dominated by television talking heads using phrases like “humiliating,” “devastating” and “crushing” to describe his defeat here.
If Santorum has any ambition for running again in 2016, and you know he does, this week was the time to bow out — while his stock, and positive poll numbers, are about as high as they’re going to get.
I will further admit to a tiny pang of disappointment. I was hoping he’d hang on until the GOP convention in Tampa, and help Newt Gingrich throw a monkey wrench into the machine by way of a brokered convention. Not because I’m a Democrat, but because I’m a columnist, and Santorum’s shoot-from-the-lip style makes good copy. No one in politics says as many stupid things as he does on a minute-by-minute basis, and I’ll miss him — especially since his departure leaves us with little to slow down the Mitt Romney Express.
The good part is, though, that the more people find out about Romney, the less there is to like. Wait until the mainstream gets hold of the fact that Romney, until 1978, believed the tenets of the Mormon church that Black skin was a curse, (albeit one that can be reversed upon ascension to heaven, where the cursed melanin will be changed to pure white), and that interracial dating was punishable by death.
But there will be time to dissect Romney later, and you can bet that’s going to happen.
Back to the Week of the Quitters, and the big news that George Zimmerman’s legal team dropped him like a faulty transmission Tuesday.
That revelation brought its own set of strange questions, as we found out that not one of his lawyers had ever met Zimmerman face to face.
Think about that for a minute.
For the past several weeks, we’ve seen these doofuses or their surrogates describe Zimmerman’s broken nose and cuts to the back of his head. They recounted the circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death with authoritative detail, and made every effort to paint the 17-year-old as an aggressive thug who was probably up to no good.
But the truth is, they’d never met Zimmerman, never seen any injuries, and never spoke to paramedics or police officers on the scene. They conducted no independent investigation, and based their entire case outline on the word of a man so cowardly he wouldn’t even tell his defense team which rock he was hiding under.
Why would a cadre of greedy, amoral lawyers back away from the biggest case of their lives, and a trial that would have made them famous? A trial, which by the way, would have been televised coast-to-coast, and the resulting book and movie deals would have made them all very rich men, win or lose?
You know why. Because Zimmerman’s case is a guaranteed dead loser, and as soon as they figured that out, they decided it was in their best interests not to stand their ground.
They ran for the hills the minute the special prosecutor announced she wouldn’t empanel a grand jury, and would probably charge the trigger-happy vigilante herself, which she did a few days later.
Like Santorum, that was probably the lawyers’ smartest move too.
Maybe it wasn’t Cut and Run Week. It was more like Cut Your Losses Week.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
SANFORD, Fla. — After weeks in hiding, George Zimmerman made his first courtroom appearance Thursday in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and prosecutors outlined their murder case in court papers, saying the neighborhood watch volunteer followed and confronted the Black teenager after police dispatchers told him to back off.
The brief outline, contained in an affidavit filed in support of the second-degree murder charges, appeared to contradict Zimmerman's claim that Martin attacked him after he had turned away and was returning to his vehicle.
In the affidavit, prosecutors also said that Martin's mother identified cries for help heard in the background of a call to police as her son's. There had been some question as to whether Martin or Zimmerman was the one calling out.
The account of the shooting was released as Zimmerman, 28, appeared at a four-minute hearing in a jailhouse courtroom, setting in motion what could be a long, drawn-out process, or an abrupt and disappointingly short one for many of the Martin family's supporters because of the strong legal protections contained in Florida's "stand your ground" law on self-defense.
During the hearing, Zimmerman stood up straight, held his head high and wore a gray jail jumpsuit. He spoke only to answer "Yes, sir," twice after he was asked basic questions from the judge, who was not in the courtroom but on closed-circuit TV. The defendant's hair was shaved down to stubble and he had a thin goatee. His hands were shackled in front of him.
He did not enter a plea; that will happen at his arraignment, which was set for May 29.
To prove second-degree murder, prosecutors must show that Zimmerman committed an "imminently dangerous" act that showed a "depraved" lack of regard for human life. The charge carries a mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life.
The special prosecutor in the case, Angela Corey, has refused to explain exactly how she arrived at the charge. But in an affidavit filed with the court, prosecutors said that Zimmerman spotted Martin while patrolling his gated community, got out of his vehicle and followed the young man.
Prosecutors interviewed a friend of Martin's who was talking to him just before the shooting. His parents' lawyer has said that Martin was talking to his girlfriend back in Miami.
"During this time, Martin was on the phone with a friend and described to her what was happening," the affidavit said. "The witness advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn't know why."
During a recorded call to a police dispatcher, Zimmerman "made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood. Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated 'these a------s, they always get away' and also said 'these f-----g punks,' said the affidavit, available at http://apne.ws/Itn7Nu .
It continued: "When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and that the responding officer would meet him. Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home."
"Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued," prosecutors said in their account. The account provided no details on the struggle other than to say that witnesses heard numerous calls for help and that Martin's mother reviewed the calls to police and recognized her son's voice crying for help.
Zimmerman told authorities that Martin attacked him as he going back to his vehicle, punched him in the face, knocked him down and began slamming head against the sidewalk.
At Thursday's hearing, the case was assigned to Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, a 39-year-old former assistant state attorney from Sanford who was elected to the bench in 2010. Zimmerman is being held without bail at the county jail.
For all the relief among civil rights activists over the arrest, legal experts warned there is a real chance it could get thrown out before it ever goes to trial because of Florida's expansive "stand your ground" law, which gives people a broad right to use deadly force without having to retreat from a fight.
At a pretrial hearing, Zimmerman's lawyers would only have to prove by a preponderance of evidence — a relatively low legal standard — that he acted in self-defense in order to get a judge to toss out the second-murder charges. And if that fails and the case does go to trial, the defense can raise the argument all over again.
There's a "high likelihood it could be dismissed by the judge even before the jury gets to hear the case," Florida defense attorney Richard Hornsby said. Karin Moore, an assistant professor of law at Florida A&M University, said the law "puts a tremendous burden on the state to prove that it wasn't self-defense."
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said his client will plead not guilty. At some point soon, the lawyer is expected to ask the judge for a hearing on the "stand your ground" law.
"It is going to be a facet of this defense, I'm sure," O'Mara said in an interview. "That statute has some troublesome portions to it, and we're now going to have some conversations and discussions about it as a state. But right now it is the law of Florida and it is the law that is going to have an impact on this case."
Martin family and their lawyer acknowledged the arrest is just a first step.
"I think that it will start the process that we are pushing for," said Martin's father, Tracy Martin, "but we can't just stop because we have an arrest. We got to keep pushing to get a conviction and after a conviction we have to certainly continue to push to get a stiff sentence."
Martin family attorney Ben Crump said he wants to make the repeal or the amending of "stand your ground" laws in Florida and other states to be a big part of Trayvon Martin's legacy. "We're not the wild, wild west," Crumb said.
As for Zimmerman, O'Mara said after the court appearance: "He is tired. He has gone through some tribulations. He is facing second-degree murder charges now. He is frightened. That would frighten any of us."
"He has a lot of hatred focused on him right now," O'Mara said. "I'm hoping that the hatred settles down now that we're moving forward." -- (AP)
Dictionaries define the word “denial” as a refusal to grant the truth of a statement and a refusal to accept or believe something.
The ‘denial dynamic’ — refusal to accept self-evident truths — is the barbed-wire binding the murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin to the murder of 68-year-old ex-Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. to the now 3-decades-plus-long massacre of the legal rights of imprisoned activist/author Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Many deny evidence of the “denial dynamic” in the seemingly disparate matters involving the murder of Martin by an unregistered town watch minion, the murder of Chamberlain by police in White Plains, N.Y., outside NYC and the legal lynching of Abu-Jamal executed by corrupted court rulings.
Claiming race/racism isn’t a factor embedded in the perplexing irregularities evident in the way in which Sanford, Fla., police and prosecutorial officials have handled Martin’s February 2012 murder denies disturbing justice system failures documented in a series of little known investigations by the Florida State Supreme Court since 1990.
Claiming race/racism isn’t a factor in the failure to arrest the White Plains, N.Y., police involved with murdering Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. in November 2011 denies the dynamic of police brutality … that scourge historically ravishing Blacks decried by Dr. Martin Luther King’s in his seminal 1963 “I Have A Dream” address.
And, claiming race/racism isn’t evident in appellate courts brushing aside obvious errors when persistently bending-&-breaking laws to block a new trial for Abu-Jamal denies a fundamental finding in a 1959 Pa. State Supreme Court ruling.
That ruling declared fair trial rights exist irrespective of whether judges or prosecutors are convinced of a defendant’s guilt. Conspiracy to convict crippled Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial.
Last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the last appeal Abu-Jamal had pending before that court.
That dismissal wasn’t surprising given that appeal’s long-shot nature plus that Court’s institutional practice of rejecting any-&-all Abu-Jamal appeals irrespective of those rejections blatantly contradicting that Court’s precedent.
Also last week, prosecutors in Florida and N.Y. prepared for pending grand jury investigations into the respective murders of Martin and Chamberlain.
If authorities followed standard procedure — rejecting race/racism — those responsible for the deaths of that teen and the senior would have faced immediate arrest.
The Florida Supreme Court’s first report, issued in December 1990, found race biases severely impairing all facets of that state’s justice system.
Flaws listed in that report included “extensive evidence” that Florida law enforcement agencies regularly subjected minorities to “abuse and brutality.”
Sanford authorities’ quick acceptance of the self-defense claim of Martin-murderer George Zimmerman underscores one observation in the Florida Court’s last report in 2008: Too many in Florida’s justice system operate under a perception that minorities are likely at fault.
A perception of probable proper-conduct by Zimmerman is undeniably a factor in Sanford authorities’ quick rejection of the recommendation made by Sanford’s head homicide detective to arrest Zimmerman for manslaughter.
The Florida high court’s 1990 report criticized minorities “underrepresented” as judges. Only one racial minority serves among 16 judges in the judicial district encompassing Sanford, a small town about 20-miles from mega-themepark in famed Orlando.
That Court’s 2008 report faulted the continuing lack of diversity among judges, court staffs, prosecutors and attorneys across Florida as contributing to both bias and diminishing “the concept of fairness.”
Only one Black serves among the 49 prosecutors working in that judicial district encompassing Sanford, according to information court administrators provided The Philadelphia Tribune.
Attention erupting from the Trayvon Martin murder helped elevate overlooked concerns about the brutal slaying of Kenneth Chamberlain, fatally shot by White Plains police when they responded to a misreported medical emergency at Chamberlain’s apartment involving Chamberlain.
Chamberlain inadvertently triggered a wireless medical alert pendant he wore for his heart condition.
Although the alert monitoring company and Chamberlain himself told arriving officers no emergency existed, officers demanded entrance into Chamberlain’s apartment which Chamberlain declined.
That alert monitoring system’s audio live-recording and the officers’ taser weapon video captured the officers hurling racist slurs at Chamberlain before blasting the unarmed retired corrections officer with a shotgun.
The Black police officers association in Westchester County, N.Y. recently blasted the murder of Chamberlain and other fatalities nationwide as “police criminality” requiring federal intervention to address “the issue of proper oversight and accountability of law enforcement.”
Last week award-winning journalist Juan Gonzalez, “Democracy Now” co-host and N.Y. Daily News columnist, released the name of the policeman who shot Chamberlain, breaking a road-block of silence White Plains officials erected around the Chamberlain murder since last November.
That officer, Anthony Carelli, is a defendant in an upcoming federal lawsuit over police brutality reports Gonzalez, once a Philadelphia Daily News columnist.
The murder of Chamberlain disproves the denial-mired-assertion that Trayvon Martin’s murder resulted largely from his wearing a hoodie.
Chamberlain only wore underwear when killed by police who then lied claiming the unarmed Chamberlain attacked them with a hatchet and knife — a lie debunked by police taser video.
Last Saturday 600 people surrounded the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany with a banner (2,230 feet long) demanding release of Abu-Jamal, abolishing the death penalty, ending the prison-industrial complex and freeing America’s political prisoners.
It’s undeniable that N.Y. recently denied parole (again) to political prisoner Herman Bell.
It’s undeniable that Florida holds America’s third largest prison population (over 102,000 inmates) and has the most wrongfully-convicted freed from death row.
It’s undeniable that denial continues…
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
I thought my son would be much older before I had to tell him about the Black Male Code. He's only 12, still sleeping with stuffed animals, still afraid of the dark. But after the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I needed to explain to my child that soon people might be afraid of him.
We were in the car on the way to school when a story about Martin came on the radio. "The guy who killed him should get arrested. The dead guy was unarmed!" my son said after hearing that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman had claimed self-defense in the shooting in Sanford, Fla.
We listened to the rest of the story, describing how Zimmerman had spotted Martin, who was 17, walking home from the store on a rainy night, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head. When it was over, I turned off the radio and told my son about the rules he needs to follow to avoid becoming another Trayvon Martin — a Black male who Zimmerman assumed was "suspicious" and "up to no good."
As I explained it, the Code goes like this:
Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where Black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.
Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.
Please don't assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a Black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.
I was far from alone in laying out these instructions. Across the country this week, parents were talking to their children, especially their Black sons, about the Code. It's a talk the Black community has passed down for generations, an evolving oral tradition from the days when an errant remark could easily cost Black people their job, their freedom, or sometimes their life.
After Trayvon Martin was killed, Al Dotson Jr., a lawyer in Miami and chairman of the 100 Black Men of America organization, told his 14-year-old son that he should always be aware of his surroundings, and of the fact that people might view him differently "because he's blessed to be an African-American."
"It requires a sixth sense that not everyone needs to have," Dotson said.
Dotson, 51, remembers receiving his own instructions as a youth, and hearing those instructions evolve over time.
His grandparents told Dotson that when dealing with authority figures, make it clear you are no threat at all — an attitude verging on submissive. Later, Dotson's parents told him to respond with respect and not be combative.
Today, Dotson tells his children that they should always be respectful, but should not tolerate being disrespected — which would have been recklessly bold in his grandparents' era.
Yet Dotson still has fears about the safety of his children, "about them understanding who they are and where they are, and how to respond to the environment they are in."
Bill Stephney, a media executive who lives in a New Jersey suburb that is mostly white and Asian, has two sons, ages 18 and 13. The Martin killing was an opportunity for him to repeat a longtime lesson: Black men can get singled out, "so please conduct yourself accordingly."
Like Dotson, Stephney mentioned an ultra-awareness — "a racial Spidey sense, a tingling" — that his sons should heed when stereotyping might place them in danger.
One night in the early 1980s, while a student at Adelphi University on Long Island, Stephney and about a dozen other hip-hop aficionados went to White Castle after their late-night DJ gig. They were gathered in the parking lot, eating and talking, when a squadron of police cars swooped in and a helicopter rumbled overhead.
"We got a report that a riot was going on," police told them.
Stephney and his crew used to talk late into the night about how Black men in New York were besieged by violence — graffiti artist Michael Stewart's death after a rough arrest in 1983; Bernhard Goetz shooting four young Black men who allegedly tried to mug him on the subway in 1984; Michael Griffith killed by a car while being chased by a white mob in 1986; the crack epidemic that rained Black-on-Black violence on the city. They felt under attack, as if society considered them the enemy.
This is how the legendary rap group Public Enemy was born. Their logo: A young Black man in the crosshairs of a gun sight.
"Fast forward 25 years later," Stephney said. "We've come a long way to get nowhere."
But what about that long road traveled, which took a Black man all the way to the White House? I can hear some of my white friends now: What evidence is there that Trayvon Martin caught George Zimmerman's attention — and his bullet — because of his race? Lynching is a relic of the past, so why are you teaching your son to be so paranoid?
There is a difference between paranoia and protection. Much evidence shows that Black males face unique risks: Psychological studies indicate they are often perceived as threatening; here in Philadelphia, police stop-and-frisk tactics overwhelmingly target African-Americans, according to a lawsuit settled by the city; research suggests that people are more likely to believe a poorly seen object is a gun if it's held by a Black person.
Yes, it was way back in 1955 when 14-year-old Emmitt Till was murdered in Mississippi for flirting with a white woman. But it was last Wednesday when a white Mississippi teenager pleaded guilty to murder for seeking out a Black victim, coming across a man named James Craig Anderson, and running him over with his pickup truck.
Faced with this information, I'm doing what any responsible parent would do: Teaching my son how to protect himself.
Still, it requires a delicate balance. Steve Bumbaugh, a foundation director in Los Angeles, encourages his 8- and 5-year-old sons to talk to police officers, "and to otherwise develop a good relationship with the people and institutions that have the potential to give them trouble. I think this is the best defense."
"I don't want them to actually think that they are viewed suspiciously or treated differently," Bumbaugh said. "I think that realization breeds resentment and anger. And that can contribute to dangerous situations."
His sons are large for their age, however.
"I'm probably naive to think that they won't realize they're viewed differently when they're 6-4 and 200 pounds," Bumbaugh said, "but I'm going to try anyway."
I am 6-4 and more than 200 pounds, son. You probably will be too. Depending on how we dress, act and speak, people might make negative assumptions about us. That doesn't mean they must be racist; it means they must be human.
Let me tell you a story, son, about a time when I forgot about the Black Male Code.
One morning I left our car at the shop for repairs. I was walking home through our quiet suburban neighborhood, in a cold drizzle, wearing an all-Black sweatsuit with the hood pulled over my head.
From two blocks away, I saw your mother pull out of our driveway and roll towards me. When she stopped next to me and rolled down the window, her brown face was full of laughter.
"When I saw you from up the street," your mother told me, "I said to myself, what is that guy doing in our neighborhood?" -- (AP)
By now, everyone in the United States, and probably most of the free world, knows who Trayvon Martin was.
His death has become the catalyst for a renewed American dialogue on race — a dialogue that, so far, has proven as vulgar and stupid as it is enlightening. For every reasoned, thoughtful analysis by someone like MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, there is a myopic, idiotic sentiment voiced by someone like Fox’s Geraldo Rivera.
Geraldo waded into the fray with his asinine declaration that the hooded sweatshirt Trayvon was wearing that fateful night last month is equally responsible for his death as is George Zimmerman, the trigger-happy wannabe cop who took it upon himself to patrol his neighborhood with a handgun, looking for people who, let’s be honest, look just like Trayvon Martin.
Rivera urged Black and brown parents to make their teenage boys take off the hoodies, because, he argued, the garment itself has so become a symbol of Black crime for white people that just wearing one can get you shot by an overzealous cop or neighborhood watch member.
This is the same blame-the-victim mentality that tells women if they wear provocative clothing they somehow deserve to be sexually assaulted. It’s the mindset that convinces a battered woman that she deserved that black eye and split lip because she should have stayed quiet. If this were Mississippi in 1955, Geraldo would have blamed Emmett Till for whistling at a white woman in the first place.
Not that I fault Geraldo too much. He’s just doing what he does — cashing in on tragedy for fun and profit. Remember the O.J. Simpson trial, sideshow and three-ring circus? Plenty of people made their living, and advanced their television careers, by endlessly fanning the O.J. flames for months — Geraldo included. That also goes for Nancy Grace, Star Jones, Jonathan Turley and a dozen others who are now full-fledged network stars because of a sensational murder trial.
You can see it happening already in the Trayvon case. One guy in particular, a former television news reporter and anchor named Joe Oliver, has elbowed his way to the front of the pack — albeit in the seemingly uncomfortable role as defender and chief apologist for George Zimmerman.
It has to be uncomfortable, you see, because Oliver is an African-American, self-described friend of Zimmerman’s who has reduced himself to ridiculousness in the name of clearing his friend of wrongdoing. He claimed that Zimmerman is not a racist, and what we all heard on that 911 tape recording is not Zimmerman saying “f-ing coons,” but f-ing goons.” He predicates this on the basis that, as a 28-year-old, ‘coon’ is an epithet before Zimmerman’s time, and he hears Black people call each other “goon” all the time.
In an interview with The Grio, Oliver said that he’s now the subject of intimidation by Blacks who view him as a sellout, a turncoat and an Uncle Tom. “Let’s just say now I get ‘the look,’ when I’m recognized [by Black people],” Oliver said. “There have been veiled threats; not directly towards me, but there have been individuals that have found out where I work, and they have made contact with the executives of my company, trying to get me fired because of what I’m doing.”
What he’s doing, mostly, is traveling from interview to interview, getting his face on camera day and night. He had to know going in that Blacks would give him the stink eye, but he chose to thrust himself into the limelight anyway. He contacted Zimmerman’s lawyer and asked to be used as an official mouthpiece.
Now, I have no idea about Oliver’s personal agenda, but I’m pretty sure he has one. No one I know, Black or white, would willfully align himself or herself with public enemy number one unless they had a very compelling reason — and maybe it’s the cynic in me, but right now I can only think of one.
Which would also explain this convoluted gem, also from the same interview:
“I know that if George hadn’t shot Trayvon, Trayvon would have shot George,” Oliver said. “I’m saying it was a life and death struggle; after that initial blow, it turned into life and death struggle and at some point a decision had to be made about saving a life. And that’s what he did.”
Whatever Oliver’s reasons for defending the indefensible, for callously ignoring facts in the name of blind loyalty, and for alienating millions of Americans sick to their stomachs because they’ve just witnessed a lynching, I hope it’s enough to let him sleep at night.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
The pressure continues to mount from grassroots organizations nationwide to bring charges against Sanford, Florida, town watch member George Zimmerman over Zimmerman’s admitted killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman has alleged that Martin was the aggressor, and Zimmerman shot and killed him in self-defense. Martin supporters, however, point to the 911 call, and to Martin’s phone call with his girlfriend just moments before the shooting as just two pieces of proof that Zimmerman escalated the confrontation. That Zimmerman is white while Martin is Black has only escalated matters, with some calling for hate crime charges to be added.
Martin’s killing and the lack of formal charges has prompted marches, demonstrations and petitions from around the country. Over Easter Weekend, dozens of Florida-area college students marched 40 miles from Daytona Beach to Sanford, raising money and awareness on Martin’s behalf; that group, the “Dream Defenders,” also planned on marching on the headquarters of the Sanford Police Department.
“This movement doesn’t hinge on George Zimmerman of the Trayvon Martin case. It was a catalyst,” participant Phillip Agnew told Bay News. “It awoke, or woke up, a lot of people to what’s going on in America.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi also weighed in on Martin’s shooting, recently stating that she was disturbed by the manner of his death while vowing to answer every question.
“I am both devastated and deeply troubled that young Trayvon Martin lost his life in a shooting. When someone loses his life at the hands of another, there cannot be any questions surrounding the circumstances of the death,” Bondi said through a statement released by her office. “I have spoken with Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, whose agency is now involved, and I know that a complete and thorough review of the facts will be conducted. FDLE has skilled investigators of the highest caliber, and no stone will be left unturned in this investigation.
“While the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office has the sole authority regarding a charging decision by law, I will remain vigilant in ensuring that questions are answered.”
The fate of the Zimmerman/Martin case now rests in the hands of State Attorney Angela Corey, when Florida Governor Rick Scott named Corey the special prosecutor amidst complaints of judicial impropriety. And while there has been a growing sense that Corey would call for a grand jury hearing as early as Tuesday, by late Monday afternoon it was reported that Corey declined to convene a grand jury — which means the decision to bring charges against Zimmerman is one Corey’s office alone will make.
Previously, Corey told the Miami Herald that she is so confident in this case that a grand jury may not be needed.
“I always lean towards moving forward without needing the grand jury in a case like this,” Corey told the Herald. “I foresee us being able to make a decision and move on it on our own.”
If a grand jury were to be convened, Corey has the authority to then release its findings, but the identities of the witnesses and much of the testimony would remain sealed.
While many have staunchly defended Martin and claim that Zimmerman is another in a long line of white racists going on African-American hunting sprees, Zimmerman’s supporters — most vocally his friends and family — have claimed that Zimmerman is not a racist, and echoed Zimmerman’s statements that he acted in self-defense.
Civil Rights leaders Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson both chimed in and led marches in Florida and in other locales to bring attention to Martin’s case.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been at the forefront of the Martin case. Local chapter president Jerry Mondesire — who also owns the Philadelphia Sunday Sun — refused to comment on the Martin case overall, the official stance of the NAACP regarding Martin’s shooting, or the lack of involvement by the Philadelphia branch.
Philadelphia did host a series of rallies and press conferences in the past few weeks, and Ron Felton, president of the Wilkes-Barre branch, did release a statement, in which he talked not only of Martin’s death, but the tragic and underreported murder of 14-year-old Tyler Winstead.
“A candlelight vigil was held on the Public Square by the Wilkes-Barre NAACP and the Peace Center in a show of support to the family of Trayvon Martin … his parents are seeking justice in that the man who murdered their son is arrested and brought to justice,” Felton said through a statement first reported by Times Leader. “Less than 48 hours after the candlelight vigil, another innocent, unarmed 14-year-old boy was shot and murdered less than three doors from his home.”
On that front, the NAACP remains steadfast. It has hosted a series of rallies and marches, with the latest one occurring on March 31 in Sanford.
And on its site — www.naacp.org — it is petitioning for signees of its online open letter to Corey, and the organization has also reconfigured its Facebook page — www.facebook.com/naacp — with “Justice for Trayvon” links and information.
Supporters of an unarmed Black U.S. teen who was shot to death pack churches, swarm rallies and wear hooded sweatshirts in solidarity, while friends and family of Trayvon Martin's shooter remain largely out of sight. The few who have defended neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman have done so reluctantly, most fearing public backlash.
Zimmerman, 28, has gone into hiding. His version of what happened in Florida on the rainy night of Feb. 26 has only trickled out from police and his attorney. Zimmerman said he was following the 17-year-old Martin because he was acting suspicious. He said he lost sight of the teenager and Martin attacked him as he headed back to his sport utility vehicle.
Zimmerman told police he fired in self-defense and has not been charged, touching off widespread public outrage and protests across the country.
Martin's supporters believe race played a role in the shooting. Martin was Black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
"The family has had death threats, the father and mother, George has had death threats. Anything related to George is a target," said Miguel Meza, who identified himself as Zimmerman's cousin.
George Hall, a retired Presbyterian minister, said he was Zimmerman's neighbor for 20 years in Virginia until about 2001. Hall said Zimmerman and his brother attended church, and he wrote a recommendation for Zimmerman for a police academy in 2004.
"Their parents taught them to treat everybody with respect. I'm tired of hearing about this race thing. It could be an element in it ... but I never would have thought of him as being a racist," Hall said. "His father was in the Army and was a white American and his mother was Peruvian. That makes him 50 percent Peruvian. A lot of stuff I hear, it irks me because people are drawing their own conclusions with very little evidence."
Meza spoke only briefly to an Associated Press reporter over the phone. It wasn't immediately clear if he had talked to Zimmerman since the shooting, but he said other relatives are afraid to comment publicly, even though they think he is being treated unfairly.
"The media has been quick to demonize George, but Trayvon Martin was no angelic boy walking," Meza said.
Zimmerman's attorney, Craig Sonner, has said that his client's nose was broken during the fight with Martin.
The Orlando Sentinel has reported that Martin grabbed Zimmerman's head and banged it several times against the sidewalk. Sonner said the gash on the back of Zimmerman's head probably was serious enough for stitches, but he waited too long for treatment, so the wound was already healing.
Zimmerman said he began crying for help; Martin's family thinks it was their son who was crying out. Witness accounts differ, and emergency call tapes in which the voices are heard are not clear. A statement from Sanford police said the newspaper's story was "consistent" with evidence turned over to prosecutors.
Meza said Martin was not the child he appears to be in photos flashed across television and newspapers.
"George was in a fight for his life," Meza said.
Martin's supporters, which include a host of outspoken celebrities and civil rights leaders, don't believe Zimmerman's story. They want him arrested and prosecuted, and his parents think their son is being painted in a negative light by a police department leaking information to the media.
The teenager was suspended from school three times this year. In October, he wrote obscene graffiti on a door at his high school. During a search of his backpack, campus security officers found 12 pieces of jewelry, a watch and a screwdriver that they thought could be used as a burglary tool, according to a school police report obtained by the Miami Herald.
Martin had previously been suspended for excessive absences and tardiness and, at the time of his death, was serving a 10-day suspension after school officials found an empty plastic bag with marijuana traces in his backpack.
His parents spent Tuesday at a forum organized by Congress on racial profiling and hate crimes. They spoke briefly before a Democrats-only congressional panel as cameras clicked noisily in front of them.
"Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon is your son," Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, told the panel. "A lot of people can relate to our situation, and it breaks their heart like it breaks our heart."
Eric Gross, who was Zimmerman's classmate in Virginia, said the shooting was surprising because he remembered Zimmerman as "good guy."
Another of Zimmerman's friends has said Zimmerman would tell the teen's parents he's "very, very sorry" if he could.
Speaking Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Joe Oliver said Zimmerman is not a racist and has virtually lost his own life since the shooting.
"This is a guy who thought he was doing the right thing at the time, and it's turned out horribly wrong," said Oliver, one of the few Blacks to come forward in support of Zimmerman.
WASHINGTON — Rep. Bobby Rush donned a hoodie during a speech on the House floor Wednesday deploring the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, receiving a reprimand for violating rules on wearing hats in the House chamber.
The Illinois Democrat spoke out against racial profiling and, as he removed his suit coat and pulled the hood on the sweatshirt he was wearing underneath over his head, saying "just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum."
Rush was interrupted by the presiding officer, Mississippi Republican Gregg Harper, who reminded him that the wearing of hats was not allowed and "members need to remove their hoods or leave the floor."
On Tuesday the 17-year-old Martin's parents spoke on Capitol Hill at a Democratic-sponsored panel on racial profiling.
Rush founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in 1968 and served six months in prison for illegal possession of weapons when he was in his 20s. He went on to get a political science degree from Chicago's Roosevelt University, won a seat on Chicago's city council in 1983 and was elected to Congress from Chicago's South Side in 1992. In 2000 he defeated Barack Obama, then a state senator, in a primary battle for Rush's seat.
Rush lost a son to a shooting in 1999 and has been a strong advocate for victims of gun violence. -- (AP)
ORLANDO, Fla. — College students around Florida rallied Monday to demand the arrest of a white neighborhood watch captain who shot an unarmed Black teen last month, though authorities may be hamstrung by a state law that allows people to defend themselves with deadly force.
Students held rallies on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, where prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if charges should be filed. The students demanded the arrest of 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who authorities say shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford.
Zimmerman spotted Martin as he was patrolling his neighborhood on a rainy evening last month and called 911 to report a suspicious person. Against the advice of the 911 dispatcher, Zimmerman then followed Martin, who was walking home from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles in his pocket.
Zimmerman's father has said his son is Hispanic and is not racist. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense.
"I don't think a man who exited his vehicle after the 911 dispatcher told him to stay inside the car can claim self-defense," Carl McPhail, a 28-year-old Barry University law school student, said at the Sanford rally.
The 70 protesters at the Sanford rally chanted "What if it was your son?" and held posters saying, "This is not a race issue." Many carried Skittles.
Martin's parents and other advocates have said the shooter would have been arrested had he been Black.
"You would think that Sanford is still in the 1800s claiming that this man can call self-defense for shooting an unarmed boy," said restaurant owner Linda Tillman, who also was at the Sanford rally.
The case has garnered national attention, and civil rights activist Al Sharpton and radio host Michael Baisden planned to lead another rally Thursday in Sanford.
But prosecutors may not be able to charge Zimmerman because of changes to state law in 2005. Under the old law, people could face criminal charges for killing someone in self-defense if they did not first try to run away or otherwise avoid the danger.
The changes removed that duty to retreat and gave Floridians, as the law is written, the right "to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," if they felt threatened. The changes also meant people could not be prosecuted in such instances.
Prosecutors can have a hard time making a case if there is no one else around to contradict a person who claims self-defense, said David Hill, a criminal defense attorney in Orlando. Thus far, Sanford police have said there is no evidence to contradict Zimmerman's claims.
"If there is nobody around and you pull a gun, you just say, 'Hey, I reasonably believed I was under imminent attack. Hey, sorry. Too bad. But you can't prosecute me,'" Hill said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
Gun control advocates said the case is emblematic of permissive gun laws in Florida, which was among the first states to allow residents to carry concealed weapons. Florida was the first state to pass a "Stand Your Ground" law, which has been dubbed a "Shoot First" law by gun control advocates. Currently, about half of all U.S. states have similar laws, said Brian Malte, legislative director of the Brady Campaign, which describes itself as the nation's largest organization dedicated to the prevention of gun violence.
"It's coming to dangerous fruition," Malte said. "There are more states like Florida." -- (AP)