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)
Police officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma were either lying outright or irresponsibly misinformed when they said, last week, that the random, race-related killings of two Black men and a Black woman, and the wounding of two others, in their city, were “unprecedented.”
Of course, the word “unprecedented” should only have been used about the murders in the predominantly Black North Tulsa community, if the Tulsa Race Riot hadn’t actually happened, on “Black Wall Street.”
But, you know what? It did — and, it was a white-on-Black riot, the second worse in our country’s history. It was 91 years ago, on June 1, 1921, right there, in the same city where the mayor and police officials seemed to be so shocked at even the hint that white Oklahomans could ever have thought about killing their Black neighbors — simply for being Black.
Apparently, people in Oklahoma have very short memories.
No matter — here’s what happened: During the mid-1800s, what was then known as the Oklahoma Territory attracted significant numbers of Black people, especially from southern states, where overt racism was alive and well.
The Territory had actually been designated by the U.S. government as a reservation, or a refuge, for Native American tribes that had been pushed out of their ancestral homelands. And, between 1830 and 1842, a great migration of Native Americans took place, as the tribes headed for Oklahoma. While it is not widely known, it has been estimated that as many as one-third of those on the so-called “Trail of Tears” were Black people, many of whom were owned, as slaves, by various Native American tribes.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the recently freed Black Oklahomans moved aggressively to set up a number of “Black towns,” where they controlled every facet of their own local economies.
Under segregation, Black Oklahomans were excluded from opportunities to sleep in hotels, to make deposits in banks, to be buried by white funeral directors, or to eat in mainstream restaurants. So, they simply built and patronized their own. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, between 1865 and 1920, African Americans created more than 50 towns and settlements, there.
Without question, the most successful example of that Black entrepreneurial model took place on “Black Wall Street,” in a Tulsa neighborhood called Greenwood. As difficult as it still may be for many of us to believe — Black, white, or otherwise — Black folks in Greenwood created a complete “parallel economy,” there, keeping their expenditures largely within their own community and creating several Black millionaires, in the process. Greenwood residents not only lived in the most comfortable and modern homes, they drove the latest automobiles, and six, Black, Greenwood residents even owned their own private planes. This, I have to keep reminding you, was in 1921.
In the movie “Rosewood,” starring Don Cheadle, envious Ku Klux Klan members swarm, pillage and burn a Black community — simply because its inhabitants were Black and prosperous. I’ll never forget seeing one white marauder, on the screen, standing on the porch of a Black household and peering into the window, before setting the house on fire. What he said, so unforgettably, to his fellow, rioting, Klansman was: “Hey, this “N-word” has a piano, I don’t have a piano.”
That, apparently, was all the justification the guy seemed to need. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right to him that there could possibly be peaceful, prosperous, Black people living in his community, if he, himself, also didn’t have the same standard of living.
That same logic, based on that same blind envy, was apparently at work in Tulsa, in 1921. The community of 10,000 predominantly Black residents, in Greenwood, stretched over 35 square blocks of homes and businesses, including The Gurley Hotel and Billiard Parlor (named after the District’s Black founder, O.W. Gurley), 21 restaurants, 21 churches, 30 grocery stores, two movie theatres, a bank, a hospital, a post office, a library and a bus system. It was prosperous, and it was self-contained.
Then, all of a sudden, sparked by a rumor and a specious newspaper report, alleging a minor assault by a young Black man, against a young white woman, the white community struck out, in a blind rage, killing hundreds (some say thousands) of Black residents, setting fire to businesses and, even, dropping sticks of dynamite on the district, from an airplane.
In about 12 hours, it was over; and the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist.
Amazingly, not a single white aggressor was ever brought to trial. No white rioter was ever incarcerated. A thriving Black community, which stood as a national and international model for the economic potential of recently freed slaves, had been wiped from the face of the earth.
With that background, perhaps you can more readily, now, understand my shock at hearing Tulsa’s police and government leaders say that last week’s random, race-based murders of three African Americans was “unprecedented,” in their city.
It worried me to hear, from the city where “Black Wall Street” once thrived, that the authorities were having difficulty determining whether the indiscriminant Black murders could rightfully be classified as “hate crimes.”
Yeah, Black folks should have been concerned about that, but not for the reasons you probably think. The real crime, in a country wherein a federal conviction for hate crimes can result in life imprisonment, is that the Oklahoma State law limits a hate crime sentence to a maximum of one year in jail.
I guess, at the end of the day, “hate” is all relative, and for the people who actually write and pass the laws in Oklahoma, and who are not likely to be “hate crime” victims, themselves, it’s not such a big issue, and the law was drafted accordingly.
In recent days, we’ve heard that the two alleged murderers, Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, were being held on “three counts of first degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill, and one count of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.”
Let’s hope those charges don’t get reduced or knocked out, entirely, in court, and that England and Watts don’t wind up only being convicted under a toothless, Oklahoma “hate crime” charge.
But, here’s where the whole “Tulsa thing” gets a bit more complicated. Those who might have quickly thought those shootings were simply white-on-Black crimes really do have another “think” coming. Early eyewitness and police reports described the shooters as “two white men” in a white Chevrolet pickup truck. In recent days, however, we’ve all learned that young Mr. England, he who sent the now-infamous racist email, is actually not white, at all, but a “Cherokee Indian.” To further complicate the story, Mr. Watts, his “roadie,” and co-conspirator, has claimed, over the past few days, that his own family actually includes a “mix of races.”
Now what? Is this a case of multi-cultural-on-Black crime, Native American-on-Black crime, or the increasingly popular, mixed-race-on-Black crime?
No matter how you cut it, we’re being reminded every day that Black people are being targeted in growing numbers of random gun attacks. But, as was also the case in the Trayvon Martin case, the shooter is a person who claims an ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white. Does “post-racial” actually mean that all other ethnic groups are now free to discriminate against, and randomly shoot at, Black people? I hope not.
The pattern is disturbing and our true antagonists are not so simple to identify, by race, anymore. We, in the Black community, need to be cognizant of that, and function accordingly.
In the meantime, as they used to say on one of the old cop shows on TV: “Be careful out there.”
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
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.
Last Sunday at Temple University, a large group gathered to rally for justice for Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a man named George Zimmerman. Disturbed by Martin’s death, the group gathered to bring awareness of the case to Temple’s campus.
The “Hoodie Vigil In Honor of Trayvon Martin” rally, hosted by the Second Pilgrim Baptist Church, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Temple University chapter of the NAACP, took place in front of the Samuel L. Paley Library located at 1210 Polett Walk. The group huddled in rainy weather, to chant, discuss and share their thoughts regarding the fatal incident.
The rally began at 6 p.m. and opened with a song from the Temple University Gospel Ministries Choir.
Following their song, individuals came to the center of the crowd for spoken word and poetry they wrote in honor of Martin.
Temple student Alexis Boney, member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and president of the NAACP chapter at Temple University spoke to the crowd about ways her organizations have been fighting for justice for Martin. Reverend Daniel Sutton of the Second Pilgrim Baptist Church located at 854 North 15th St., asked the group to bow their heads in a moment of silence for Martin.
Sutton was inspired to participate in the rally after learning of Martin’s death.
“Although there was an issue in Sanford, Florida, the goal was to address some of the issues and concerns that are plaguing us right here and sometimes you have to strike while the iron is hot,” he said. “We gathered the young people together on Temple’s campus to address the issues here and around other areas.”
Among the speakers was Micah Sims, a state coordinator for Occupy The Dream, an organization aimed to achieve economic justice for all. Sims believes it is important to support rallies such as these.
“We’re just not going to stand for injustice and inequality — we have a voice, we are paying attention and we are going to do our best to make sure there are no more Trayvon Martin incidents,” Sims said.
As the night continued, one speaker asked all the children to come to the center of the crowd. They gathered at the front as the speaker noted the importance of guiding the youth down the right path. Of the children, one girl sang Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.”
The Temple University Gospel Ministries choir closed the rally with a song and the students, neighbors and speakers all cheered, chanted and clapped as the rally came to a close.
Along with members from the Second Pilgrim Baptist church, members from Bible Way Baptist Church located at 1323 North 52nd St. and Mount Tabor Ame Church located at 961 North 7th St. were also in attendance.
Sutton believes church is a good place to keep the community politically aware and to encourage voting and voter registration.
“I believe great things were said that people were able to take home,” he said. “You must vote and must be registered correctly to vote so what better place if they’re all coming to the house of GOD at one time and I have their attention.”
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!
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.
Gregory Alston and George Zimmerman share a common infamy — they are killers.
Alston, 39, of Philadelphia, is the low-life caught on helicopter video Friday night fleeing from police when his vehicle rammed into a car, killing a man plus critically injuring a woman and a 4-year-old child.
Pursuing police captured Alston.
George Zimmerman, 28, is the target of nationwide protests arising from his late February fatal shooting of teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., a small town about 20-miles from mega-theme-park famed Orlando.
No helicopter video caught the murder of Martin which Zimmerman proclaims was self-defense.
Zimmerman’s self-defense claim now smolders atop hot questions involving guilt-confirming evidence emerging subsequent to that night Zimmerman shot the unarmed Martin.
Alston and Zimmerman both share arrest records for violence.
But Alston, unlike Zimmerman, is a convicted felon with an extensive record of 21 arrests that include attempted murder, weapons charges and escape.
Zimmerman’s 2005 arrest for shoving a policeman outside of a Florida bar was plea-bargained downward resulting in his entering a pre-trial diversion program ironically set aside for persons with initial arrests for non-violent acts.
Zimmerman’s second 2005 arrest, for domestic violence, involving an ex-fiancée became muddled with him seeking a restraining order against her and courts issuing orders restraining each against the other.
Alston and Zimmerman share the disgusting distinction of pistols playing pivotal roles in their respective cases.
Alston, Philadelphia police said, pointed a pistol at officers during a traffic stop, triggering a wild pursuit through a half-dozen neighborhoods before he plowed into that car at 10th and Ontario streets, then ran away before his capture.
Zimmerman, unlike career criminal Alston, was legally authorized to carry a pistol.
Florida features a notorious concealed weapons law. That law even allows persons with misdemeanor violence convictions to get a gun permit after the end of their probation or other court-imposed conditions.
It is unclear whether Zimmerman obtained his gun carry permit before or after his 2005 arrest on charges of battery of a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence because a 2006 Florida law shrouds gun permit information in secrecy.
It is clear that carrying a concealed weapon in Florida “does not make [a person] a free-lance policeman …” according to Do-Not provisions posted on the website of the Florida government agency responsible for issuing gun permits.
Additionally, that website clearly states that a person with gun carry permit in Florida should never display a handgun to gain “leverage” in an argument.
So, from the Do-Not provisions posted on that Florida gun permit issuing agency’s website, it is clear that Zimmerman did not follow those provisions because on the night he fatally shot Martin he told police that he was acting as a self-appointed town watch leader — the kind of “free-lance policeman” role specifically prohibited by those provisions.
While those Do-Not provisions are not legislative law, the precise law-based wording of those prohibitions undercut Zimmerman’s self-defense claims as does his refusal to follow clear orders from 911 dispatchers.
Those dispatchers ordered Zimmerman not to confront Martin after Zimmerman called 911 reporting that he thought Martin was acting suspiciously.
Zimmerman, according to leaks from the Sanford Police Department, told police that Martin attacked him as he was returning to his vehicle after some kind of confrontation with Martin — contact that 911 dispatchers told Zimmerman not to initiate.
Evidence that Sanford police ignored in their initial investigation includes the last call Martin made before his death.
The friend talking to Martin moments before Martin’s death told the attorney representing Martin’s family that Martin talked about a man following him, expressing his fear of that man.
Sanford police, inexplicably, did not check Martin’s cell phone … even ignoring frantic calls to that phone made by Martin’s parents desperately trying to locate their then missing son.
While sinister similarities exist between Alston and Zimmerman, there is one circumstance they do not share: a jail cell.
Alston’s in jail awaiting trial and needed conviction producing at least a life in prison sentence.
Zimmerman, however, is neither jailed nor awaiting trial.
Top Sanford police and prosecutors refused to arrest Zimmerman despite a Sanford detective recommending the arrest of Zimmerman for manslaughter.
Sanford authorities manipulate Florida’s outrageous “Stand Your Ground” law seemingly defending Zimmerman, claiming he rightfully used deadly force because he felt endangered.
Authorities pretend there isn’t probable cause to arrest (son-of-a-judge) Zimmerman despite the fact that Zimmerman — acting as aggressor when confronting Martin — negated his protections under that SYG law.
Other persons in Florida acting provocatively like Zimmerman have faced arrest for manslaughter and/or aggravated assault with a firearm — some sustaining convictions.
Anti-Zimmerman protestors raise the logical question of why authorities refuse to arrest this reckless shooter enabling the traditional process of trial to determine his guilt or innocence.
Given the racial dynamics roiling around this incident it’s not surprising that some blast Black anti-Zimmerman protestors for ignoring Black criminals like Gregory Alston.
But such criticism ignores the history of Blacks opposing wrongdoing inside and outside their communities like Philadelphia Black leader, the Rev. Richard Allen, publicly condemning misconduct among Blacks following a Black murderer’s conviction in March 1808.
Claims of Zimmerman not being a racist do not mitigate the fact that he clearly acted in a prejudicial manner reflexively profiling Martin as a criminal because Martin was Black and wearing a hoodie.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Council urged to block mayor’s recent order
Mayor Michael Nutter may have bitten off more than he can chew with his new ban on feeding the homeless in public parks. Opponents of the policy, enacted last month, flooded City Council’s meeting Thursday to ask council to somehow block the ban.
They accused the mayor of trying to curtail their religious freedom, their civil rights and of contradicting the teachings of Christ. Nutter, citing health and sanitary concerns, and worries about personal dignity and access to services, recently announced a policy that bans large scale feeding of the homeless in public parks. It forces food donors to serve meals indoors — at places where the homeless may also have access to the services many of them need.
No one who spoke at Thursday’s council meeting supported the mayor.
“Would it be sanitary, would it give dignity to have homeless people eat out of trash cans and dumpsters?” asked Veronica Joyner, founder of the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School, where students are required to help feed the homeless as part of the school’s curriculum.
According to statistics read by Joyner to council members, there are about 13,000 homeless people in Philadelphia. Joyner noted that many are veterans and have substance abuse problems.
Joyner and about 10 of her students were part of a group of more than 30 people, many of whom brought their Bibles and quoted from them, who signed up to speak during the meeting.
All of the speakers supported Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s call for council to hold hearings on how the policy would affect the homeless. Many wanted council to go a step further and block the policy.
Blackwell introduced a resolution two weeks ago calling for hearings on the issue. A vote was expected Thursday. But, as the meeting started to take on the air of a church service, complete with one man — Reggie Marrow — singing during his allotted time, Council President Darrell Clarke, after a quiet sidebar with Blackwell, ended all speeches on the topic.
“We get your point,” Clarke said.
In the end, Blackwell held the resolution, delaying a vote for at least one more week.
“We decided to hold it such that if we wanted to amend it, or can work out some compromise, that we get another opportunity to do that,” she told reporters after the meeting.
It was a move that will also keep the pressure on the mayor.
“Certainly as long as it’s on the calendar, the public has the right to come and say what they think,” she said.
The mayor’s s office said the policy is not official and wouldn’t be until after administration hearings.
“The Parks and Recreation Commissioner will have a hearing in the near future on the proposed regulation,” said Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald. “Thereafter there is a process lasting a number of weeks before the reg is official … the administration … will be creating a taskforce of stakeholders to work toward bringing all outdoor food serving into more dignified and safer indoor settings.”
If Blackwell’s resolution passes, council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless will hold hearings on the impact of the ban. What steps she might take after that depend on the findings.
Council cannot compel the mayor to rescind his policy, Blackwell noted, but hearings would increase political pressure on the mayor to rethink it.
According to the Rev. Brian Jenkins, pastor of Chosen 300 Ministries, coalition of churches across the city has been formed to oppose the policy.
The group takes exception to Nutter’s policy on several grounds.
Jenkins said it was a violation of civil rights.
“Separate but equal was abolished in 1954,” he said.
For Erica Moulinier, it stepped on her right to worship freely.
“It creates bureaucratic barriers to compassion,” she said. “For many of us, feeding is not only an act of compassion, but an act of faith.”
Adam Bruckner, founder of Philly Restart, a group dedicated to feeding the homeless, even took offense to the mayor’s choice of words – when Nutter announced the new policy he used the phrase “outdoor feeding.”
Feeding is for farms,” Bruckner said. “We serve meals.”
One man tied the new rule to the opening of the new Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“It really looks like an attempt to hide the homeless,” said Brett Anderson, who then quoted the Bible. “For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat.”
Nutter announced the ban in mid-March. At the time, he also said the administration would come up with a new, long-term approach to feeding the hungry within 90 days.
The mayor pitched the policy as one centered on public health and safety concerns, and as way to assist people needing food and shelter.
“Aside from the dignity provided by sitting down at a given time in a given place for a nutritious meal, an indoor location enables the city and its partners to offer health, mental health, housing, a place to receive mail and other needed services to this very vulnerable population,” Nutter said at the time.
Nutter added that until the many groups that feed the homeless outside and those that have indoor facilities can coordinate their activities, the outdoor groups can feed people on the apron at city hall.
Large scale feeding, which used to happen in Love Park and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Family Court building have been moved to the apron.
In other news, council passed resolutions honoring fallen firefighters Lt. Robert Neary and Daniel Sweeney, who were killed Monday while fighting a fire in an empty warehouse in Kensington. Both men were killed after a wall in an adjacent building collapsed on them.
Council unanimously passed a resolution honoring the memory and service of each man with a standing vote.
Finally, council also passed a resolution “calling for justice” in the Trayvon Martin case.
The resolution, introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown two weeks ago, passed just one day after Martin’s accused killer George Zimmerman was arrested, and 45 days after the incident that resulted in Martin’s death.
“Two weeks ago … we did not know whether the family would ever see this day,” Brown said. “We now know they will be given their day in court. We will all be given the opportunity to find out just what happened on Feb. 25.”
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama spoke in unusually personal terms Friday about the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager in Florida, a case that has roiled civil rights activists and a suburban Orlando community. "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said, vowing to "get to the bottom of what happened."
Obama expressed sympathy for the parents of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, by a neighborhood watch volunteer who said he was acting in self-defense.
"I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids," Obama said, calling the case a "tragedy."
The nation's first Black president aimed his message at Martin's parents, saying, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans take this with the seriousness that it deserves, and we're going to get to the bottom of what happened."
Obama said that "every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and everybody pulls together, federal state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."
Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, thanked Obama for his support, saying in a statement the president's words "touched us deeply and made us wonder: If his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious too?"
Obama brought his voice to an issue that is sensitive in Florida, a large and diverse state that plays an influential role in presidential elections. The Orlando area in central Florida is particularly important, acting as a bellwether for statewide elections.
Republican presidential candidates weighed in after Obama spoke. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called the shooting "horrible case" and referred to Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight.
Santorum said: "Stand your ground is not doing what this man did."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney issued a statement after Obama spoke that read: "What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity."
The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation, and a grand jury is considering whether to charge George Zimmerman, who acknowledged shooting the teen but said it was in self-defense. Martin's parents, civil rights activists and others who have rallied to the cause say they won't be satisfied until Zimmerman is arrested.
Police Chief Bill Lee stepped down temporarily this week to try to cool the building anger that his department had not arrested Zimmerman. Hours later, Gov. Rick Scott announced that the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, had recused himself from the case in hopes of "toning down the rhetoric" surrounding it.
Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point, the two got into a fight, and Zimmerman pulled out his gun.
Zimmerman told police Martin attacked him after he had given up on chasing the teenager and was returning to his sport utility vehicle.
Obama cautioned before speaking that he must "be careful so we're not impairing any investigation." But he said he was glad the Justice Department was investigating and that Florida officials had formed the task force.
"I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how did something like this happen, and that means we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident," Obama said.
The case resonates with many Black Americans, a key voting group during Obama's 2008 election, who see it as yet another example of bias toward Blacks. Civil rights groups have held rallies in Florida and New York, saying the shooting was unjustified. Of Sanford's 53,000 residents, 57 percent are white and 30 percent are Black.
Obama himself has tried to downplay race, as he did early in his term after the controversial arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Black Harvard University professor, by a white police sergeant in Cambridge, Mass.
Gates was arrested in his own home after the police sergeant arrived to investigate a possible burglary. The charges were dropped, but Obama said the police had "acted stupidly," breathing life into a lingering debate. The president said later he should have expressed his concerns with different language and invited both Gates and Sgt. James Crowley to the White House for a beer. -- (AP)
A large group rallied at Love Park on Monday, March 26 for the “Brotherly Love Candlelight Vigil” in honor of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Word spread quickly on the vigil held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Center City at 15th and John F. Kennedy Blvd.
Techbook Online Corporation (TBO, Inc.), an Internet multi-media publishing group, crafted the event in an effort to rally with the community to fight for justice for Martin.
On Feb. 26, Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, 28, who claims he shot in self-defense and has not been arrested. There has also been an emphasis on race in the shooting – Martin is Black; Zimmerman is not.
The evening kicked off with a musical selection of “Amazing Grace” played on the saxophone. TBO, Inc. organized eight speakers to share insight on the Martin case and Power 99’s “Cappuchino” was the emcee.
Of those speakers, Pastor Keon A. Gerow spoke first and posed a question to the crowd comparing Michael Vick’s case to Martin’s, asking why “Zimmerman is not arrested for killing a human being?”
Gerow was pleased to be at the vigil and represent for his church.
“It’s my belief that Trayvon Martin is just one of many African-American men who have fallen tragically to racism in this country,” he said.
The speakers consisting of attorney Michael Coard, the Rev. Micah Sims, Mothers in Charge representatives and other business leaders, poets and activists, each shared the common belief that Zimmerman should be arrested and there is a need for everyone to be politically aware and active. In a call and response chant, “no justice…no peace!” the crowd was lively in their hoodies, with posters and pictures of Trayvon.
Sharisse Davis decided to attend the vigil as soon as she caught wind of the event.
“I’m actually glad that they did this for him because I think what happened to Trayvon Martin was a great injustice to our people as well as everyone around the world,” she said.
One of the speakers, Jay Moodie, expressed to the crowd “You see how frustrated we got about what happened to Trayvon Martin—that’s how frustrated we have to get about what’s going on in this city.”
Manwell Glenn, speaker, encouraged the crowd to vote, stay in tune with politics and to “hoodie up for Trayvon,” as he pulled his hoodie over his head.
Christopher Norris, CEO of TBO Inc., called for a moment of silence for Martin. The crowd lit their candles, put on their hoodies and Norris poured iced tea on the ground in honor of Martin.
“This was really incredible and we just hope we keep the momentum going,” Norris said.
TBO Inc. plans to build a coalition with the speakers to leverage a series of events to raise political awareness and encourage African-American diversity in the newsroom.
The speakers, organizers and other participants ended the night marching to the city’s police department.