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.
So, is this for real?
News broke last week about the City of Philadelphia having paid $775,500 to settle a slew of lawsuits filed over the years against a discredited crew of narcotics cops and a top official in the City Solicitor’s Office told a reporter that three-quarters of a million dollar expenditure is not a “shocking number.”
Not shocking in a city desperate for cash to fund public schools and provide jobs?
That response from a top city government lawyer to throwing precious City Hall revenue down a rat hole of protecting corrupt police is ridiculous with a capital R.
Perhaps a reaction that is a step above that solicitor’s remark on the Ridiculous Meter is the unusual confluence of normally antagonistic entities — the Fraternal Order of Police and the Guardian Civic League — both providing support for a policewoman disciplined by the PPD for committing the crime of fraud — lying in a series of real estate transactions.
How ridiculous (and shameful) is it for any law enforcer to publicly support a proven law breaker even if that criminal holds ranking positions in both the FOP and the GCL?
Guess this support for that property deed fudging disgraced Black policewoman and those now white ex-narcs who remain on the PPD payroll under seriously dark clouds of suspicions including stealing money proves that crime pays for police.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ramsey rejected a recommendation from a departmental review board to suspend that policewoman for thirty days opting instead to fire her.
Commissioner Ramsey’s action came after the Philadelphia DA’s Office refused to file criminal charges against the law breaking law enforcer for her fraudulent acts that strangely did produce criminal charges against persons with involvement in those property thefts involving that soon to be ex-cop.
In a review of the Year 2012 words beginning with the letter ‘R’ have prominence.
There is the R-word: re-election.
President Barack Obama’s re-election in November is truly historic for more reasons than the first non-white to rule the Oval Office getting a repeat performance.
President Obama prevailed in his reelection against repugnant efforts by the obscenely rich to ruin the very democracy upon which America is founded with massive infusions of cash for dirty tricks and deceptive TV ads devised specifically to defeat Obama.
Fortunately, reason among voters, lead by rock-solid support for the President from the same Blacks his administration has backhanded for four years, blocked the rich from their desired reward of stealing the presidential election thus gaining free reign to raid federal revenues.
President Obama’s encountered repugnant recalcitrance from the Republican Party way beyond legitimate partisanship.
Republican resistance to policy/programmatic initiatives of President Obama have damaged all Americans, not just Democrats but middle and low-income people who blindly back Republicans literally against their economic self-interest.
But retarded actions by Obama himself have helped that Republican resistance.
Obama keeps trying to curry bipartisan favor from the same Republicans who’ve repeatedly declared they are figuratively for everything he’s against and against everything he’s for.
Obama is caving unnecessarily on Social Security in the current Fiscal Cliff negotiations with Republicans offering his political enemies enticements through advancing his support of a scheme to curb cost of living increases that will rob senior citizens of thousands of dollars annually…breaking an Obama campaign promise not to touch Social Security.
Obama’s constant reach for rapprochements with Republicans his reminiscent of remarks that famed Black journalist/activist Ida B. Wells made in 1898 about then President William McKinley’s refusal to act against racist mobs rampaging against Blacks.
Wells, whose life and works are now the subject of programs around Philadelphia honoring her, castigated McKinley for being “…much too interested…in the decoration of Confederate graves to pay attention to Negro rights.”
The Year 2012 tallied continued attacks on the rights of Blacks, the most pronounced being efforts in many states including Pennsylvania to strip Blacks, Latinos, the elderly and college students of their voting rights by erecting barriers to election booth access.
One organization at the head of efforts nationwide to roadblock Republican efforts to rob voting rights was the NAACP, the civil rights organization that some Blacks from arm-chair revolutionaries to right-wing conservatives love to rail against as irrelevant.
Another R-word rearing its head repeatedly in 2012 was racism.
Racism laced the tragic February murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin from motivating the racial profiling of accused assailant George Zimmerman to exposing the lack of racial diversity among Florida judges, prosecutors and police.
The failed diversity in Florida’s criminal justice system is apparently a rejection of recommendations for increasing diversity the Florida Supreme Court has made since the early 1990s.
Racism is evident in the rightfully outraged reactions to the Connecticut elementary school massacre.
That massacre in a predominately white town has prompted an unprecedented national reaction demanding action to tackle the normally politically untouchable topic of gun control.
The hot response to the Connecticut shootings contrasts to body politics’ cold as ice reaction towards the murders of 62 school age children in Chicago from January to early December 2012.
Those Chicago murders of children aged 6-to-18 are separate from the 446 children shot in that city this year alone including three 5-year-olds, one 4-year-old, one 3-year-old and two 1-year-old children, according to Crime Chicago blog.
Happy New Year!
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
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.
The new forensic voice analysis of the desperate sound of the pleading cry for help captured on the 911 tape recording on that tragic night of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida back on February 26, 2012 is just the latest piece of evidence of the horrible and tragic last moments of a precious life that was ruthlessly and viciously taken away. Every time we hear that tape, it serves to reveal and remind us of the deadly consequences of racial hatred, prejudice and violence.
This is not about prolonging a national controversy or doing anything to further polarize people who still may be uncertain of why this particular case of fatal violence has engendered the sincere and caring concerns of millions of people not only in America, but also from millions of people throughout the world. In a society and global community where freedom of the press is a paramount pillar of a stable democracy, it is invaluable contribution of the free press to seek out the truth in cases like the merciless death of young Trayvon Martin. This is about ensuring equal justice for Trayvon and for all people.
The Orlando Sentinel newspaper did the right thing when it commissioned a professional independent voice analysis of the 911 tape recording that documents the “screams” and outcry for help that dreadful rainy night in Florida. The question is who was the person screaming for help? Tom Owen is the Chairman Emeritus of the American Board of Recorded Evidence and is a forensic specialist for Owen Forensic Services LLC in New York. Owen is an expert on this issue of audio verification and voice identification. Owen was retained by the Orlando Sentinel to answer this important question. Based on test results and Owen’s own independent review and analysis of the results of the test conducted on the 911 tape recordings from the night of February 26, 2012, Tom Owen concluded that moments before the sound of the fatal gunshot, the voice heard screaming for help was not that of George Zimmerman.
To enhance objectivity and to provide further accuracy, the Sentinel got second independent opinion that utilized a different professional forensic technique to identify the voice that was screaming on the 911 tape recording. Although Zimmerman now claims that he was the one screaming for help before he killed Trayvon Martin by a close-ranged gunshot, Ed Primeau from Michigan who is also another voice forensic expert concluded that the voice heard crying for help on the 911 tape was not the voice of Zimmerman. Primeau affirmed that is was the voice of Trayvon that was yelling for help. Primeau stated, “I believe that’s Trayvon Martin…. without a doubt…. That’s a young man screaming.”
We must not let this matter fade back into the forgetful shadows of momentary national and global concern. Justice is this case has not been accomplished. We are grateful to Trayvon’s parents and family who are being steadfast in their determination to see that justice is done. All of our national civil rights leaders and organizations are to be saluted for responding swiftly with massive mobilizations. There continues to be a huge yet understandable interest in the media and most of all it is very important to note that young people across the lines and divisions of race and class continue to respond by speaking out to demand justice and basic fairness in the wake of this tragedy.
As we have stated from the very first day, the murder of Trayvon Martin is not an isolated incident. It is symptomatic of the deep-seated, institutionalized injustice and racism in our society that begs for a fundamental airing and resolve to change and transform so that young Black males, as well as others, are not characteristically stereotyped and perceived to be worthless targets to satisfy the venomous blood thirst of those who have gone rabid mad with hatred and prejudice.
The truth is, however, our society does not need more polarization or anger if we are going to see that justice is done for Trayvon and for all the victims of this type of societal madness. Some of the recent public debates on this issue have been driven more by the personal ego of some rather than the collective determination of all people of goodwill to stand up and do what is fair and just. That is why, even in the face of all the real haunting hurt and pain, we remain committed to transforming our nation and world into a better place.
That is what Occupy the Dream is all about. We are building a proactive movement for change. We want “to get money out of politics” because our democracy is so paralyzed due to economic inequity and injustice that some believe they have “the right” to carry guns and shoot people at the will of their social bias or prejudice. These inequities make our “system of justice” only for the interests of those who are in the 1%. Will the 99 perccent continue to hear Trayvon Martin still crying out for justice from his grave?
Yes, first we have to continue to demand equal justice. But also, we can make sure that Trayvon’s murder is not in vain. That’s right. We have a responsibility today not just to be angry, but to channel our anger into a positive, proactive, participatory movement for change in our own communities, nation and world. Yes, our high and active passions for freedom, justice and equality should never be dimmed in the wake of tragedy or the set-backs that we may face in life. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best at the 1963 March on Washington. Dr. King emphasized, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We need to press forward to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream a reality. We need to press forward compassionately to answer Trayvon Martin’s cry for justice. Trayvon’s cry for life is now our cry for life. Occupy freedom, justice and equality for all. Occupy the Dream!
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)
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 national outcry over the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager in an Orlando, Fla., suburb has forced the police chief and the county prosecutor to be removed from the investigation as demands grow for the killer to be arrested.
The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., has sparked a national outcry.
On Thursday, thousands of people rallied in Sanford demanding an arrest. That same day, Police Chief Bill Lee announced he was temporarily stepping down. Hours later Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, had recused himself from the case.
It is clear that the announcements were made mainly to try to cool down the building anger against local police for not arresting George Zimmerman, 28, who admitted to shooting the teen but said he fired in self-defense.
Lee said had become a “distraction,” and in his letter to the governor, Wolfinger said his departure was aimed at “toning down the rhetoric” in the case.
Undoubtedly the growing protests forced officials to take action.
Sanford police decided not to arrest Zimmerman after he shot Martin to death on Feb. 26. Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point during the confrontation Zimmerman pulled out his gun and shot Martin to death.
The Florida authorities half-measures did not appease Martin’s parents and nor should they appease anyone else seeking justice until Zimmerman is arrested and charged.
Under public pressure, the Justice Department and the FBI have opened a civil rights investigation and a special prosecutor has been named.
This was necessary because Sanford police have mishandled the investigation.
Police took Zimmerman’s word and claimed there was no evidence to contradict his claims that he was attacked by an unarmed boy that was 100 pounds lighter. Zimmerman was the one armed and in pursuit in defiance of the police dispatcher’s request not to pursue Martin. Zimmerman was armed with a 9mm. Martin was carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of candy.
Martin’s parents were first told by police that Zimmerman had a clean record. Police based their assertion solely on what Zimmerman had told them. But Zimmerman had been arrested in 2005 on charges of resisting arrest. The charges were later dropped. Later that year Zimmerman and his girlfriend filed domestic violence charges against each other.
Another red flag about Zimmerman is that according to news reports Zimmerman called police 46 times since January 2011. The Miami Herald reported that neighbors say he was fixated on crime and targeted young Black men.
The Trayvon Martin tragedy is apparently not the first time that Sanford police has mishandled incidents involving African Americans
The Miami Herald reported that the Sanford Police Department “was accused of giving favorable treatment to relatives of officers involved in violent encounters with blacks.”
The Martin’s family repeated demands Thursday that Zimmerman be charged.
“We want an arrest, we want a conviction and we want him sentenced for the murder of my son,” Martin’s father, Tracy, said.
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)
Sybrina Fulton knows what she will be doing tomorrow. It is the same thing she did yesterday. And the same thing she will do today.
“I cry every day,” she said Sunday on TV One’s “Washington Watch with Roland Martin.” “I just don’t understand. My son’s gone and this guy has never been arrested.”
Her son, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year old high school junior with no record of trouble, was killed in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman was questioned by police and released after authorities took his word that he was acting in self-defense, a version of events contradicted by witnesses and calls to 911.
Martin, an honor student who lived in Miami with his parents, was visiting in the gated community of Twin Lakes in Sanford, 20 miles northeast of Orlando, with his father when the incident took place. He had gone to a nearby 7-Eleven store to pick up a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea during halftime of a televised NBA game.
Walking back, he was spotted by Zimmerman, who was driving an SUV. Zimmerman, a wannabe cop, dialed 911 to report seeing a “very suspicious” Black male in the neighborhood.
Under pressure, Sanford police released 911 tapes that clearly show that Zimmerman disobeyed police instructions that he avoid making contact with Martin.
Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher, “This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something.” He also claimed Martin had his hand in his waistband and was looking at homes as he walked.
“These — holes. They always get away,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher. When the 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he was following Martin, he replied yes.
“OK, we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher told Zimmerman. Not only did he disobey, Zimmerman got out of this SUV, confronted Martin, and fired the deadly bullet into his chest.
Benjamin Crump, the family’s lawyer, also appeared on Martin’s show with the parents.
“He [Zimmerman] gets out of that car with a 9 millimeter gun, weighing 200 pounds and confronts this kid, weighing soaking wet 140-150 pounds, who has only a bag of Skittles. George Zimmerman has a red sweatshirt and jeans on. We believe Trayvon Martin went to his grave not knowing who was this strange white man confronting him.”
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee has defended his department’s decision not to charge Zimmerman.
“We are taking a beating over this,” he said. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”
Several witnesses have disputed the idea that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.
“I heard someone crying — not boo-hoo crying, but scared or terrified or hurt maybe,” Mary Cutcher told the Miami Herald. “To me, it was a child.” She explained, “This was not self-defense. We heard no fighting, no wrestling, no punching. We heard a boy crying. As soon as the shot went off, it stopped, which tells me it was the child crying. If it had been Zimmerman crying, it wouldn’t have stopped. If you’re hurting, you’re hurting.”
Sanford, Fla., has a checkered race relations record.
In 2005, two parking lot security guards, one the son of a Sanford police officer, fatally shot a Black teenager, Travares McGill, in the back. They, too, claimed self-defense and had their case dismissed in court.
Last year, Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced from office after the son of a lieutenant was caught on camera beating a defenseless, homeless, Black man. The department refused to prosecute the officer, Justin Collison, until after the footage was posted on YouTube.
Tracy Martin told Roland Martin that his son saved his life in 2004.
“At the time, he was 9 years old,” the father recounted. “We had just came from the Little League football park. We fell asleep while the stove was on. A grease fire started. I went into the kitchen to try to put the grease fire out. The grease splattered all over my leg. My body went into shock and by me and him being in the house, I started calling out his name.
“He finally woke up and, at 9 years old, he pulled me from out of the kitchen, where the kitchen cabinets were on fire. He pulled me out of the kitchen onto the balcony. He actually went back into the house and got the cell phone and called 911.”
An emotional Tracy Martin said, “He was my hero — he was actually my best friend. He saved my life. And for me not to be there to be able to save his life is very upsetting.” — (NNPA)
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.
They do not see you.
For every African American, it comes as surely as hard times, setback and tears, that moment when you realize somebody is looking right at you and yet, not seeing you -- as if you had become cellophane, as if you had become air, as if somehow, some way, you were right there and yet at the same time, not.
Ralph Ellison described that phenomenon in a milestone novel that begins as follows: "I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe. Nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."
Trayvon Martin was killed on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., fully 60 years after Ellison published "Invisible Man." The circumstances of the unarmed 17-year-old's death suggest that even six decades later, invisibility plagues zblack folks, still.
It happened like this. He was visiting his father, watching hoops on television. At halftime, he left his dad's townhouse in a gated community and walked to a 7-Eleven for snacks. There was a light drizzle and he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. On the way back, he drew the attention of George Zimmerman, captain of the Neighborhood Watch. Zimmerman, who is white, called police from his SUV and told them he was following a "suspicious" character. The dispatcher promised to send a prowl car and told Zimmerman to stay in his vehicle.
He didn't. When police arrived, they found him with a bloody nose and Martin face down on the grass not far from his father's door, a gunshot wound in his chest. Zimmerman said he shot the boy in self-defense. Police did not arrest him. At this writing, nearly three weeks later, they still have not, citing insufficient evidence. The case has been referred to the state's attorney and the NAACP has asked the Justice Department to intervene.
All of which raises a number of pressing questions:
How can you get out of your truck against police advice, instigate a fight, get your nose bloodied in said fight, shoot the person you were fighting with, and claim self-defense? If anyone was defending themselves, wasn't it Trayvon Martin?
Would police have been so forbearing had Martin confronted and killed an unarmed George Zimmerman?
Of course, the most pressing question is this: What exactly was it that made this boy seem "suspicious"? The available evidence suggests a sad and simple answer: He existed while Black.
The manner of said existence doesn't matter. It is the existing itself that is problematic. Again: Sometimes, they do not see you.
That's one of the great frustrations of African-American life, those times when you are standing right there, minding your business, tending your house, coming home from the store, and other people are looking right at you, yet do not see you.
They see instead their own superstitions and suppositions, paranoia and guilt, night terrors and vulnerabilities. They see the perpetrator, the suspect, the mug shot, the dark and scary face that lurks at the open windows of their vivid imaginings. They see the unknown, the unassimilable, the other.
They see every d--n thing in the world but you.
And their blindness costs you. First and foremost, it costs your sacred individuality. But it may also cost you a job, an education, your freedom. If you are unlucky like Trayvon Martin, it may even cost your life.
He lay bloody and ruined in wet grass with nothing in his pockets but $22, a can of lemonade and a bag of Skittles, not a type, not a kind, but just himself, a kid who liked horses and sports, who struggled with chemistry, who went out for snacks and never came home.
Visible too late.