THE LAST WORD
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By Stephanie Slifer
Earlier that month, the former neighborhood watch volunteer was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
By Ari Melber, The Cycle
In his unusual address about race relations after the George Zimmerman trial, President Obama recounted personal experiences when people thought he was dangerous, or a criminal, because of his skin color. He was describing a social form of racial profiling, of reactions to him based solely–instantaneously–on his race. The official practice, while widely condemned, actually remains legal under federal law and in about 25 states. And in the wake of the president’s remarks, there’s a new push in Washington to ban racial profiling.
Under Supreme Court precedent, race can be used as a factor in policing, providing that the authorities demonstrate it is relevant to specific law enforcement goals. And many states and cities maintain the option of profiling as a police tactic–though few openly admit it.
New York City runs a sweeping program that inspects predominantly young minority males. Last year, under that “stop and frisk” policy, the NYPD conducted 532,000 searches of city residents. A striking 85% of the targets were racial minorities–almost double their share of the population. Those hundreds of thousands of black and Latino New Yorkers were presumed suspicious, and forced to stop, in public, and submit to searching and questioning.
The presumption was wrong.
NYPD data indicates that the vast majority of the search targets–89%–were innocent.
THE WASHINGTON POST
Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free.
Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.
George Zimmerman’s acquittal was set in motion on Feb. 26, 2012, before Martin’s body was cold. When Sanford, Fla., police arrived on the scene, they encountered a grown man who acknowledged killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy. They did not arrest the man or test him for drug or alcohol use. They conducted a less-than-energetic search for forensic evidence. They hardly bothered to look for witnesses.
Only a national outcry forced authorities to investigate the killing seriously. Even after six weeks, evidence was found to justify arresting Zimmerman, charging him with second-degree murder and putting him on trial. But the chance of dispassionately and definitively establishing what happened that night was probably lost. The only complete narrative of what transpired was Zimmerman’s.
Two weeks after the inexcusable death of young Trayvon Martin, I received a call from the attorney representing the Martin family, Benjamin Crump. It was a plea for assistance as the person responsible for the 17-year-old’s death was walking around freely as if nothing had happened. George Zimmerman wasn’t arrested that fateful night. George Zimmerman wasn’t arrested the next day. George Zimmerman, in fact, wasn’t arrested for over 40 days after killing a teenager. It was only because of a rallying cry for justice that the Sanford police department had to do its job and place handcuffs around Zimmerman. It was only after tens of thousands marched and protested that a special prosecutor was assigned to the case, who then brought charges that they failed to bring. And it was only then that this case finally went to trial. After this weekend’s atrocious verdict, some are acting as if a trial was automatic from the beginning. Let’s not have amnesia. Grassroots activism and mobilization for truth are the only reason why we even know the names Trayvon and Zimmerman. And they will once again be the reason why we take the fight to a federal level. The jury’s decision has left us with an atrocity and a disgrace to any American who believes in freedom, equality and justice. Interfering with the right of a person to walk home having committed no crime or trespassing is an outrageous travesty and a violation of that person’s civil liberties. Trayvon Martin had a civil right to go home that night. He never made it to his destination because of the actions of one man, and one man alone who was not a member of law enforcement and had no authority to disrupt his right of movement.
A Florida jury has found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman plead not-guilty, and said he had acted in self-defense when he shot Martin on Feb. 26. 2012.
“I think that this is an atrocity,” Rev. Al Sharpton said on MSNBC shortly after the verdict was announced. ”I think that it is probably one of the worst situations that I’ve seen. What this jury has done is establish a precedent, that if you are young and fit a certain profile, you can be committing no crime, just bringing some Skittles and iced tea home to your brother, and be killed, and someone can claim self-defense having been exposed with all kinds of lies, all kinds of inconsistencies.”
“This is a slap in the face to those that believe in justice in this country,” Sharpton added later.
Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation. [Full Quote]
President Barack Obama released a statement a day after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, saying the “death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.
“And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”