Thursday Reads: Trayvon Martin Updates, Etch-a-Sketch Romney, the NFL, and Lots MorePosted: March 22, 2012
Good Morning!! I just have to share the news that summer has come to Boston. We’ve had three days straight of bright sun and temperatures in the high 70s, and tomorrow it will be in the mid-80s! Summer in March! My forsythia is coming out, perennials are sprouting along my front walk. It’s just amazing. We had no winter and now Summer has arrived in mid-March. Ecstacy!!
All right, enough about my world, let’s get to the news.
The national outrage over the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida three weeks ago has grown from a low growl on the internet last weekend to a deafening roar on social, alternative, and mainstream media by last night. I’ve heard a number of people referring to this murder as a modern day Emmett Till case. It’s very hard to believe that George Zimmerman still has not been arrested. I hope the authorities know where he is.
The Sanford City Commission passed a vote of “no confidence” in police Chief Bill Lee Wednesday night.
Lee became a target of advocates pleading for justice in the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman last week.
After the 3-2 commission vote, City Manager Norton N. Bonaparte Jr. will decide whether to ask for the chief’s resignation or fire him. If Bonaparte decides to do neither, he can then be held accountable for any future problems with the chief.
Dozens of Sanford residents gathered in the Sanford City Hall, where City Commissioner Mark McCarty set the tone for the meeting by noting that he had called for Police Chief Bill Lee’s ouster 10 days earlier in a meeting with the city manager, Norton N. Bonaparte Jr….
McCarty said questions surrounding the case, and the negative publicity cast upon the city since the killing, were largely the result of mishandling of the investigation. The questions, he said, include whether police were too quick to accept Zimmerman’s claim that he fired in self-defense, despite the fact that Martin was unarmed and that witnesses described hearing someone wailing for help before a gunshot rang out.
The LA Times article also reports that two neighbors have said they saw Zimmerman pinning Martin face down on the ground. One woman, Mary Cutcher, said in an interview on CNN: “If it was self-defense, why was he [Zimmerman] on Trayvon’s back?”
While surfing for news last night, I found an article in the Houston Chronicle by an African American mother of teenagers, Gina Carroll. It’s called “Why I Cannot Write about Trayvon Martin.”
Carroll lives in a nice neighborhood, in gated community; and her children have been repeatedly harrassed by law enforcement. Her son was put up against a car and searched at gunpoint by police who wanted to know what he was doing there. Here daughter was followed and then stopped by a “neighborhood patrolman” because she was carrying a lacrosse stick that he assumed to be a rifle. She was asked what she was doing in the neighborhood. And there was this:
Not too long ago my teenagers were returning home late from a party. The neighborhood patrol followed them through the neighborhood , through the gates of our house and into our driveway.
“What are you doing here?” the officer asked.
“We live here.” My son replied.
“Oh, your mother works here?” the officer asked.
[Indignant pause by children. Deep breath. Anger suppressed]
“No, my parents own this house.” My son said.
[indignant pause by officer. Quizzical look.]
“Then I’d better let you kids get home. It’s late.” Officer says and exits.
Apparently law enforcement types assume African American teenagers (even girls) to be suspicious characters. They don’t all end of dead, but how many George Zimmermans are out there? He can’t be unique.
New information has come out about George Zimmerman. Zimmerman has a history of vigilantism and violence. From The Daily Beast:
In 2003, he gave chase when he saw a man steal a television from a supermarket, following the shoplifter until police could catch up. Zimmerman followed another man a year later, saying the man had spit on him.
Zimmerman’s record becomes spottier over the following years as he had a handful of run-ins with the law. In July 2005, Zimmerman was arrested after a tussle with law enforcement outside of a bar near the University of Central Florida. It was a first offense, and Zimmerman got off with a pretrial diversion program.
It seems that Zimmerman was not even registered as an official neighborhood watchman.
The National Sheriffs’ Association, which runs the Neighborhood Watch Program, said it has “no information indicating the community where the incident occurred has ever even registered with the NSA Neighborhood Watch program,” NSA executive director Aaron D. Kennard said in a statement.
But by all accounts, Zimmerman took the job seriously. He made close to 50 911 calls between Jan. 1, 2011, and the evening of the shooting to report suspicious characters in his neighborhood, a 260-unit housing complex that is almost 50 percent white with Hispanic and African-American populations of about 20 percent each….The reaction to the shooting among community residents seems to have been mixed. Cynthia Wibker, secretary for the homeowner’s association, told reporters that Zimmerman’s actions once led to the arrest of a thief. “He helped solve a lot of crimes,” she said.
The Orlando Sentinel dug up records that showed Zimmerman had been involved in violence in a relationship.
The court records concern a conflict between Zimmerman and his ex-fiancée, who filed a petition accusing Zimmerman of pushing her during an argument at her Orlando home in August 2005. During the altercation, the woman’s dog reportedly bit Zimmerman’s cheek. The two each filed court petitions and had wildly different stories about what happened. The woman said Zimmerman had assaulted her; he claimed she was the violent one.
Zimmerman accused the woman in his petition of cursing at and striking him, and said she refused to give him documents, including mortgage papers and car-loan documents, that belonged to him.
He said she caused the wounds to his face that she blamed on her dog. Both Zimmerman and his ex-fiancée reported in their petitions that the fight wasn’t the first incident of violence between them.
The ex-fiancée reported that Zimmerman had “open handed smacked” her in the mouth and berated her during an argument in January 2003.
In November 2002, Zimmerman claimed his ex had assaulted him with a baseball bat after he went to a concert without her.
The same month, the woman said, Zimmerman became angry when she came home later than usual one night. He began groping her and “said he could because I was his woman,” she wrote.
Now that we know Zimmerman tried to blame Trayvon Martin for initiating violence, I tend to believe the woman. In fact I read last night that Zimmerman actually claimed he was returning to his truck when Martin attacked him from behind.
The other big story last night was Romney adviser Eric Ferntstrom’s “etch-a-sketch” gaffe. Think Progress:
Appearing on CNN this morning, Romney Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom was asked if he’s concerned that Romney may alienate general election voters with some of the hard-right positions he’s taken during the primary to appeal to conservatives. Fehrnstrom brushed this concern off:
HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.
Amazing. And if you didn’t watch Rachel Maddow’s show last night, please try to watch it on-line. She ripped Romney stem to stern with a lengthy recounting of his many bald-faced lies during the campaign, saying he might be the most blatant liar of any candidate in recent memory. Raw Story reported on it:
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night blasted former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney, accusing the Republican presidential candidate of being a serial liar.
“This is hard to talk about in the day to day news context, because there are such low expectations for politicians being truthful and because the word ‘lie’ is both under-used and over-used to the point where everybody is a little touchy about it,” she said.
“But the degree to which Mr. Romney lies, all the time, about all sorts of stuff, and doesn’t seem to care when he gets caught is maybe the single most notable thing about his campaign.”
Here’s some sort of good news. A new Pew poll found that Americans are getting tired of politicians who talk about religion all the time and also with churches meddling in politics. Reuters:
Americans are increasingly uneasy with the mingling of religion and politics, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, in the midst of a campaign season punctuated by tussles over the role of faith in the public square.
Back in 2001, when Pew first asked the question, just 12 percent of Americans complained that their politicians talked too much about religion.
That number has risen steadily ever since and hit a record high in the new poll: 38 percent of Americans, including 24 percent of Republicans, now say their political leaders are overdoing it with their expressions of faith and prayer.
And more Americans than ever, 54 percent, believe churches should keep out of politics. That’s up from 43 percent in 1996, according to the Pew Research Center.
I hope the Catholic Bishops are paying attention.
There’s a lot of sports news. Thank goodness, Tim Tebow won’t be coming to New England. He’s been traded to the Jets as of last night. And the New Orleans Saints have been heavily penalized by the Commissioner for their so-called “bounty” policy, in which money was offered to players who could knock an opposing player unconscious or have one carried off the field on a stretcher.
The NFL suspended [Head Coach Sean] Payton for an entire season without pay beginning on April Fool’s Day for lying and trying to cover up the Saints’ bounty system designed to take players out. Goodell suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular season games of 2012 and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was banned from the league indefinitely. The Saints also lost a second-round pick in the next two drafts. Saints players may also be suspended as between 22 and 27 of them are involved, according to the NFL’s investigation.
Wow! Apparently Goodall is very serious about cutting down on player injuries.
As of late last night, police in Toulouse were in a standoff with Mohammed Merah, the man who shot and killed seven people over eight days in Southwest France. From the WaPo:
PARIS — Under orders to seize him alive, French anti-terrorism forces engaged in marathon negotiations Wednesday with a young Islamist accused of killing three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi during an eight-day string of point-blank shootings in southwest France.
The standoff began in a blaze of gunfire as paramilitary forces approached the suspect’s apartment in a working-class neighborhood of Toulouse at 3 a.m. Wednesday. Two policemen were wounded in the initial burst, one in the shoulder and the other in the knee, and the suspect warned that he had several weapons and knew how to use them.
At that point, the situation turned into a waiting game, with the suspect behind his door and police negotiators trying to persuade him to surrender. The standoff continued late into Wednesday night, as riot police set off small explosions outside the building, blowing off its shutters to pressure the man to surrender, the Associated Press reported.
UPDATE: French shooting suspect Mohammed Merah is dead. After police stormed his home, he jumped out a window, still shooting, killing himself.
So…. what are you reading and blogging about today?