Today’s post will focus on discrimination, hate and hate crimes. Whether it is outright racism… unquestionable prejudice…probable intolerance or a hint of bigotry with a touch of “that just ain’t right” sexism.
First up however, a quick look at what is going on in Ferguson:
After nine nights of unrest met with tear gas, riot gear and a National Guard presence, Tuesday night in Ferguson, Missouri began peacefully. But by midnight central time, tensions began to rise.
Many protesters marched along West Florissant Avenue, chanting “no justice no peace,” and “hands up, don’t shoot,” while others loitered looking on. Police were not enforcing Capt. Ron Johnson’s rule forcing protesters to keep moving or risk removal.
While people were relieved at the initial lack of confrontation Tuesday night, everyone recognized how fragile the situation was and that it could turn instantly.
I really don’t know what happened overnight, but Holder did make a statement about the situation.
Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday to get briefed by local authorities on the situation there following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. But before he arrives, Holder has written a message to the people of Ferguson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened,” Holder writes.
He says he plans to “meet personally with community leaders, FBI investigators and federal prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to receive detailed briefings on the status of this case” while in Ferguson tomorrow.
Holder urges an “end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson,” saying that “they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice.” He also vows that the Justice Department will “defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told.”
Here’s some thoughts regarding Holder’s statement and his plans to go to Ferguson:
Yeah, go and read what Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley had to say…
…Holder was there as part of President Barack Obama’s efforts to play “race-healer-in-chief.”
“These looters and rioters do not need to hear from the attorney general that criticism of Obama is race-based,” Riley told host Bret Bauer. “What they need to hear from this Black man in this position — the nation’s leading law enforcement official — is that they need to stay out of trouble with the law. They need to pull up their pants and finish school and take care of their kids. That is the message they need to hear.”
Riley is African-American, and he is not the only black man who is making outrageous statements like this. Check this out, – Tea Party Leader: Black ‘Thugs’ Do Not Deserve Due Process (VIDEO)
Then you have reaction to the statement made by Missouri Gov. Nixon, from John Marshall at TPM: Is That an Editing Error?
I want to be very clear on the point I’m about to make so that I’m not misunderstood. Gov. Nixon of Missouri put out a statement this evening on the situation in Ferguson. Much of it is boilerplate that wouldn’t surprise or inspire you. (I’m reprinting it in its entirety at the end of this post.) The gist is that to move forward peace needs to be restored in Ferguson and there needs to be justice in the case of the precipitating event – the death of Michael Brown. (There is a separate controversy over Nixon’s decision not to appoint a special prosecutor – which I think is a mistake.) But in the key line – the part two of his statement he says that “a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.”
Now, let me be clear. This is not remotely to suggest that the facts will not show that a prosecution is in order. Based on what we know publicly, it seems very likely that there should be. But let’s not let the justified outrage at what’s transpired obscure a simple fact. There’s a great deal we in the public do not know about what happened. This goes without saying. There will be sworn witness statements, forensic evidence about Brown and Wilson and a lot else. Indeed, it’s one of the significant problems in this saga that so little information has been released. But there’s a process: a full investigation and then a decision by a prosecutor. That hasn’t happened yet.
It’s an entirely different matter for members of the public to demand a prosecution. But this is the Governor of the state, the elected official who has ultimate responsibility for carrying out the laws of the state. It’s simply crazy for him to be saying there has to be a prosecution. It’s so inappropriate that I think it’s highly likely that this is actually an editing error – or someone doing the writing who just didn’t grasp the significance of the word choice.
But even if that’s the case, the principle is so basic and important that it’s important to note: the Governor shouldn’t be publicly assuming that Wilson must be prosecuted or that a prosecution must happen for justice to be served.
BTW, Getty released a statement as well…regarding their photojournalist who was arrested Monday night. Statement from Pancho Bernasconi, VP, News, on the arrest of Getty Images staff photographer Scott Olson in Ferguson | Getty Images Press Room | Latest company news, media announcements and information
We at Getty Images stand firmly behind our colleague Scott Olson and the right to report from Ferguson. Getty Images is working to secure his release as soon as possible.
We strongly object to his arrest and are committed to ensuring he is able to resume his important work of capturing some of the most iconic images of this news story.
Now we get to the other stories making news that touch on the subject of this post. Hate.
Journalism, is this what it has come to?
The right-leaning Daily Caller recently launched an outrageous editorial series by author Patrick Howley. “Cigarette Reviews for the Uninitiated: 18 Brands in 18 Weeks” reads like a parody of tobacco industry talking points, or some pundit idea of an end-of-year joke column. But on close inspection, it appears to be quite real. The expressed purpose of the series is stated clearly: “It is our hope that the research conducted herein by official TheDC cigarette critic Patrick Howley will inform and educate the public, as well as aid tobacco companies in their forthcoming product designs.”
Can you believe it?
Thanks to the Daily Caller, this advertising doesn’t always need to be paid for. Here is Howley’s surprisingly similar description of Marlboro Red.
“We were all American men, with one shared set of values and one clear international enemy” … “the full thickness of the product” … “its macho reputation” … “this moment is most satisfactory, providing a warmth and respiratory presence so lacking from other cigarettes” …. “a thick and thorough brand, to be sure, but very pedestrian in its goals.”
Please, someone tell me it is a joke.
There is something nostalgic with the phrases Howley uses, makes me think of those smoking scenes in the movie All the President’s Men.
[after seeing Carl Bernstein light up a cigarette in an elevator]
Bob Woodward: Is there any place you *don’t* smoke?
There is something about smoking a cigarette while typing away on the typewriter keys…a bit old-fashioned these days. With text messages and twitter statuses in under 140 characters, some things are becoming obsolete. Think about it, something as simple as paper documents…which brings me to this next link I have to share with you today also touches on those newspaper men working at the Washington Post: Noting the History of the Paper Trail
Bob Peterson/Time Life Pictures, via Getty Images
Actually, make that “copy and recopy.” In a chapter of her book in progress about the history of documents Ms. Gitelman describes the way Mr. Ellsberg obsessively made copies of his copies, even enlisting the help of his children in what she describes as an act of radical self-publishing.
“Even though we think of copying now as perfunctorily ripping something off, he was expressing himself by Xeroxing,” she said.
Gitelman is one of the historians of late that are practicing “paperwork studies.”
Ms. Gitelman’s argument may seem like an odd lens on familiar history. But it’s representative of an emerging body of work that might be called “paperwork studies.” True, there are not yet any dedicated journals or conferences. But in history, anthropology, literature and media studies departments and beyond, a group of loosely connected scholars are taking a fresh look at office memos, government documents and corporate records, not just for what they say but also for how they circulate and the sometimes unpredictable things they do.
There is a new book out called “The Demon of Writing” written by Ben Kafka, who has become an expert on “paperwork studies.” Be sure to read the rest of the story at that New York Times Book Review link above.
I love researching the old-fashioned way, it is an art form…at least I think so. Hours spent in libraries, sitting down on well-worn carpets, surrounded by stacks of musty books…how wonderful!
But I guess there are some advantages to technology in the classroom. High-tech classrooms in Australia reviving Aboriginal languages
In a high-school classroom in western Sydney, teacher Noeleen Lumby is asking her pupils to recall the Aboriginal name for animals that indigenous Wiradjuri people have used for hundreds of years.
As she holds up stuffed toys representing some of Australia’s native wildlife, including a kangaroo, an emu and a cockatoo, the class of about 25 — many from Vietnamese and Cambodian backgrounds — come to grips with the ancient tongue.
“I like this because you get to learn new skills and you can speak some indigenous language,” said 12-year-old Tien Nguyen.
Lumby, who oversees the students as they use their new knowledge to create projects on computers and iPads, is passionate about filling a gaping hole in Australian education — the study of Aboriginal languages.
Lumby feels it is best for students to learn Aboriginal culture as well as the language, I think it is marvelous. Lessons we should be taking note of here in this country. But then, obsolete languages along with musty books are things students today don’t appreciate. (I speak from first hand experience…both my kids are allergic to books and reading. Sad isn’t it?)
On to another article, this one is about movie making…and one of my favorite pictures that was released in 1980. From Vanity Fair: Making Blues Brothers With John Belushi and Dan Akroyd—“We Had a Budget for Cocaine” Written by Ned Zeman and Photos by Annie Leibovitz.
The pitch was simple: “John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Blues Brothers, how about it?” But the film The Blues Brothers became a nightmare for Universal Pictures, wildly off schedule and over budget, its fate hanging on the amount of cocaine Belushi consumed. From the 1973 meeting of two young comic geniuses in a Toronto bar through the careening, madcap production of John Landis’s 1980 movie, Ned Zeman chronicles the triumph of an obsession.
Enjoy that article, it is a long one.
Sigh, now I will give you some links to news stories that are trending this weekend.
BB sent me this link last night, so…another Hindu is mistaken for a muslim: Woman Is Held in Death of Man Pushed Onto Subway Tracks in Queens
Police are charging her with second-degree murder as a hate crime.
A woman has been arrested in connection to the ambush killing of two firefighters in Webster, NY. New York woman arrested in connection with murder of 2 firefighters
Frank Luntz is now a consultant for CBS News, GOP Pollster Frank Luntz: ‘I Don’t Think The NRA Is Listening’ To Americans’ Gun Violence Concerns
Latest on the cliff of doom: Congress leaders huddle in quest for ‘fiscal cliff’ compromise
India’s gang rape victim goes home:
Indian women have made it to the tops of their professions in India. There’s been a female Indian president, women run multi-billion-dollar enterprises and Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party, is the most powerful politician in the country.
But on the peripheries of big cities and rural areas of the nation, women continue to fight for equal rights – and this is reflected in how authorities treat rape victims, human-rights groups say.
Human Rights Watch, in a report released Sunday in India, points to the so-called “two-finger test” as evidence of how India had failed to take rape seriously, often blaming women’s behavior for the offense.
In the test, which appears in Indian jurisprudence textbooks and is admissible in court, a doctor inserts two fingers into a women’s vagina to determine its laxity and whether the hymen is broken, signaling previous sexual activity.
The test perpetuates stereotypes of rape survivors as loose women and often is used by defense counsels to achieve acquittals, human-rights groups say.
Awful! I have avoided writing about this horrid case of gang rape and murder.
And here is the latest news out of Newtown: Claim seeks $100 million for child survivor of Connecticut school shooting
Now, just a few video clips of people lighting one up, or in the case of this first clip…lighting two up.
While watching Now Voyager with Bette Davis last night, I thought it is fabulous, those clothes…and those eyebrows on Davis when she is the dowdy spinster aunt.
No other cigarette smoking scene in history is as fabulous as this, except for maybe this one from To Have or Have Not:
Hey, speaking of Blues Brothers, fix the cigarette lighter:
No lighter? How about striking a match like Walter Neff in Double Indemnity:
…or the way De Niro takes a long drag in the film Goodfellas…
A few other scenes are mentioned in this 2005 article from The Guardian: I smoke, therefore I am
Can you think of any good movies without smoking in them? …If you discount historical films such as Barry Lyndon or Ben-Hur, a diet of non-smoking films would be almost unwatchable. But what would be most tragically lost are the great black-and-white smoking films of the 1940s – Casablanca, Now, Voyager, The Big Sleep – where wreaths of smoke are an essential and beautiful part of the cinematography, and where smoking quite clearly stands for sex. The Big Sleep (1946) opens with a title shot of two cigarettes smouldering in an ashtray that suggests more strongly than flesh scenes ever could that Bogart and Bacall are having an affair. And we learn a lot about the intimacy between Paul Henreid and Bette Davis in Now, Voyager from his habit of lighting two cigarettes at once and handing one to her. Cigarettes in movies are about far more than just whether the characters happen to have a nicotine addiction.
A-ha, starting and finishing this post with two articles on cigarettes…Journalism, there you are!
It is the last Sunday of the year, enjoy it and let us know what you are thinking about today…
Last summer I wrote about a “shocking hate crime” committed by 18-year-old Deryl Dedmon and some friends in Jackson, Mississippi in the early hours of June 26, 2011. At the time, I likened the crime to the murder of Medgar Evers, who had been shot and killed by a white man in Jackson, Mississippi on June 23, 1963. At the time I wrote the post, Deryl Dedmon and one other boy, John A. Rice, had been arrested, but the charges against Rice had been reduced to simple assault and he had been released.
The teenagers, who were from Brandon, Mississippi, had been partying all night; and at the instigation of Dedmon, they drove to Jackson, Mississippi in search of a black man to harrass.
In a parking lot on the western side of town they found their victim.
James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, was standing in a parking lot, near his car. The teens allegedly beat Anderson repeatedly, yelled racial epithets, including “White Power!” according to witnesses.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith says a group of the teens then climbed into their large Ford F250 green pickup truck, floored the gas, and drove the truck right over Anderson, killing him instantly.
A video camera captured the attack and subsequent murder, making the arrests possible.
Last October, CNN published an in-depth report on the case based on interviews with Brandon residents who knew the boys.
Parents and students who knew Dedmon tell CNN it was widely known that he expressed a hatred for blacks, white people who had black friends, and anyone he thought was gay. And they say he had a history of harassing teens at his high school.
CNN has learned that Department of Justice investigators have uncovered two other possible incidents where groups of white Rankin County teens, including Dedmon, have sought out and attacked a black person.
Dedmon and his friends bullied another local boy because he had black friends.
Jordan Richardson, 17, says he was bullied, beaten and harassed by Dedmon and his friends two years ago, partly because he had black friends.
“He had a look of no conscience,” Jordan said about Dedmon. “When we would get into our altercations … there was never any show of emotion or anything — anything. Deryl always, I think, just carried around this backpack of hatred.”
After numerous run-ins at school, Jordan’s father called police after a particularly violent confrontation, and the police separated the boys.
“It was very tough on my son,” said Brian Richardson, a pastor in Brandon. “Because he knew – and I had told Jordan for a year and a half, that Deryl Dedmon will kill you.”
Brian Richardson said that Dedmon and the gang of boys he hung out with constantly used the “n” word and were known to be violent. A friend of his son Jordan had also been harrassed by Dedmon.
Nevertheless, police and school officials claimed that had seen “no warning signs” and that Anderson’s murder was “an isolated incident.”
CNN learned that
Shortly after he allegedly drove the truck over Anderson, Dedmon boasted and laughed about the killing, according to testimony given by some of the teens to detectives.
“I ran that nigger over,” Dedmon allegedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the other car. He repeated the racial language in subsequent conversations, according to the law enforcement officials.
“He was not remorseful, he was laughing, laughing about the killing,” said [District Attorney Robert Shuler] Smith.
Yesterday, Dedmon and two other young men, Dylan Butler, and John A. Rice pleaded guilty to in the murder of James Anderson.
In a series of court hearings orchestrated by state and federal prosecutors, Deryl Dedmon, 19, and his friends John A. Rice, 18, and Dylan Butler, 20, were charged in the morning in United States District Court in Jackson with one count each of conspiracy and one of violating Mr. Anderson’s civil rights. They pleaded guilty in the afternoon.
They face up to five years for the conspiracy charge and up to life for the hate-crime violations….On Wednesday, Mr. Dedmon admitted in state court that he drove his truck over Mr. Anderson, 47, in a motel parking lot just before dawn last June 26. He was sentenced to two life sentences without a chance for parole.
The murder, whose race-based implications were slow to surface, shot to national prominence when surveillance video surfaced. In it, Mr. Anderson could be seen stumbling and then being struck by a Ford F-250 with Mr. Dedmon at the wheel.
The newly revealed state-federal case against the young men showed that Dedmon and several of his friends had been regularly targeting vulnerable black people in Jackson for months.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves set sentencing for June 8 and ordered all three to be held in custody. The three are from the town of Brandon, a Jackson suburb, and were accused of going to the majority-black capital city on numerous occasions to harass or assault black people.
Prosecutor Sheldon Beer read the allegations against the three, saying they harassed or assaulted black people who they thought were homeless or intoxicated. Victims were chosen because they thought they would not tell police, authorities said….
Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division, said: “This is really a case about a group of racist thugs who made a sport of targeting vulnerable African Americans in Jackson and attacking them without provocation simply because of the color of their skin.”
“On a number of occasions they drove around Jackson looking for African Americans to assault,” Perez said during a news conference after the hearing. “Jackson is a wonderful community, however, for these defendants they referred to Jackson as `Jafrica.’ African Americans in Jackson were subhuman to them.”
On June 26, before the murder,
Rice and Butler and others stalled Anderson until Dedmon arrived, according to allegations read in court. When Dedmon arrived, Rice punched Anderson and knocked him down. Dedmon straddled the man and beat him.
Four other people were present at the attack on Anderson. The FBI is still investigating the case, but won’t say if there will be more charged filed in the future.
At a hearing on Wednesday, Dedmon had pleaded guilty to state capital murder charges and received two life sentences. He is eligible for the death penalty, but Anderson’s family are against capital punishment, and they asked that Dedmon’s life be spared.
“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder,” the letter states; the letter is signed by Barbara Anderson Young, James Craig Anderson’s sister who is in charge of, and speaks for, his estate….
“Our opposition to the death penalty is deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well,” the letter states. But the family goes on to explain that there is another reason for their opposition, one that is tied to Mississippi’s racial past.
“We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites,” the letter states. “Executing James’ killers will not help to balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment.” [….]
“Those responsible for James’ death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man. They also caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another,” it says.
Huffington Post reports some of what was said in court by the victim’s sister, the young murderer, and Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill Sr.
“My brother Craig would give you the shirt off of his back. Because of my brother, James Craig Anderson, our lives were richer, with love, respect and a love of God,” she said. “We, the Anderson family, are praying for racial reconciliation not just in Mississippi but all over this land and country. We are praying for the defendant, Dedmon, and his family that they find peace.”
“I am sincerely sorry. I do take full responsibility for my actions on that night. I pray for y’all’s family every day … and that God will soften your hearts to forgive me,” Dedmon said….
“I was young. I was dumb. I was ignorant … I was not raised the way that I acted that night. I was raised in a godly house. As I stand before you today, I am a changed man. I am a godly man. God has showed me to see no colors. God showed me that we are all made in the image of God so we are all based on the same thing … I do not ask y’all to forget, but I do ask y’all to forgive.”
“Your prejudice has brought shame upon you and placed a great stain on the state of Mississippi. Whatever excuse you may offer for what you have done, forget that. There’s no excuse that you can offer for the family of Mr. Anderson or to your fellow Mississippians who have to try to reconcile the horrible damage you have caused,” Weill said.
Weill recalled the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers who were murdered and buried in an earthen dam in a rural area in what became known as “Mississippi Burning.”
“All the hard work we have done to move our state forward from that earthen dam in Neshoba County to here has been stained by you. A stain that will take years to fade,” the judge said.
I find it hard to believe that Dedmon didn’t learn some of that racial hatred at home, but of course I can’t know for sure. I only hope that other potential Deryl Dedmon’s as well as potential vigilantes like George Zimmerman are paying attention to this tragic case.
Tuesday Reads: Romney Gets Women’s Health Questions in IL, Santorum Talks Brokered Convention, Manning and Tebow, and the Trayvon Martin MurderPosted: March 20, 2012
Today is the Illinois primary, so I have a few links for you about that–even though I’m sure you’re as sick of reading about Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as I am.
According to CNN, Romney leads Santorum by double digits as of last night.
The Caucus Blog (NYT): Before Illinois Primary, Santorum Talks of Brokered Convention
Mr. Santorum remains insistent that he and the other Republican challengers are in a position to deny Mr. Romney the 1,144 delegates he needs to claim the party’s nomination. In an appearance on CBS’s “Early Show,” Mr. Santorum said Mr. Romney could not win.
“The convention will nominate a conservative,” Mr. Santorum said. “They will not nominate the establishment moderate candidate from Massachusetts. When we nominate moderates, when we nominate a Tweedledum versus Tweedledee, we don’t win elections.”
Asked about the odds of a brokered convention, Mr. Santorum said, “Obviously, they are increasing.”
PEORIA, Ill. — Mitt Romney wanted to talk about the economy, but Bradley University had other ideas.
The Republican presidential front-runner faced tough questions about his opposition to Planned Parenthood and mandatory birth control coverage as he met with students Monday night.
CNN (with video): Romney can’t escape birth control questions in Illinois
After Romney riffed for about 20 minutes on President Barack Obama’s management of the economy, he solicited questions from the large student-heavy audience.
As the first questioner made apparent, these voters were not pre-screened.
“So you’re all for like, yay, freedom, and all this stuff,” said the first woman to approach a microphone. “And yay, like pursuit of happiness. You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”
“You know, let me tell you, no no, look, look let me tell you something,” he said, waiting for the crowd noise died down. “If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for? Vote for the other guy, that’s what he’s all about, okay? That’s not, that’s not what I’m about.”
Romney also told the students that he would end government funding for Planned Parenthood and he didn’t know or care where women could go for health care after he ends the funding. What a guy.
Washington Post Politics: Romney, Santorum each claim conservative mantle before Illinois primary
On the eve of the hotly contested Illinois primary, each of the leading Republican presidential candidates drew inspiration from touchstones of conservatism on Monday and offered himself as the standard-bearer for the right’s fight against President Obama.
Mitt Romney traveled to the urban campus where Obama once taught constitutional law to lecture the president on the principle of economic freedom, paying homage to the University of Chicago’s legacy as the intellectual center of free-market economics.
A hundred miles west in Dixon, Rick Santorum tried to channel the spirit and vision of Ronald Reagan during a stop in the former president’s boyhood hometown, hoping to give his insurgent campaign a last-minute infusion of energy.
As they journeyed across Illinois, Romney and Santorum each cast himself as the rightful heir to Reagan’s conservative mantle…
As we’ve all noted previously, if Ronald Reagan ran today, he wouldn’t be nominated. He wasn’t anywhere near as far right as today’s Republicans.
In sports news, the Peyton Manning sweepstakes is over. Manning is going to the Denver Broncos, and Xtian fundamentalist weirdo Tim Tebow may be traded.
Unfortunately, Jim Clayton of ESPN started a rumor that the New England Patriots might want Tebow. I don’t know if I could take that. I don’t really think Tebow’s super-pious act would go over that well in Foxborough. I haven’t seen any of the Patriots players kneeling down and praising Jesus before games and after scoring. Ugh!
Dakinikat and I both wrote about the Trayvon Martin case yesterday, and I have a few more links on that.
First, Connie posted a link to this very informative Mother Jones article yesterday: The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained. If you haven’t heard the 911 calls, the audio from all of them is posted in the piece. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” which gives very broad interpretations to “self-defense” is explained in the MJ article. Here’s a bit of it:
In 1987, then-Gov. Bob Martinez (R) signed Florida’s concealed-carry provision into law, which “liberalized the restrictions that previously hindered the citizens of Florida from obtaining concealed weapons permits,” according to one legal analyst. This trendsetting “shall-issue” statute triggered a wave of gun-carry laws in other states. (Critics said at the time that Florida would become “Dodge City.”) Permit holders are also exempted from the mandatory state waiting period on handgun purchases.
Even though felons and other violent offenders are barred from getting a weapons permit, a 2007 investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found that licenses had been mistakenly issued to 1,400 felons and hundreds more applicants with warrants, domestic abuse injunctions, or gun violations. (More than 410,000 Floridians have been issued concealed weapons permits.) Since then, Florida also passed a law permitting residents to keep guns in their cars at work, against employers’ wishes. The state also nearly allowed guns on college campuses last year, until an influential Republican lawmaker fought the bill after his close friend’s daughter was killed by an AK-47 brandished at a Florida State University fraternity party.
Florida also makes it easy to plead self-defense in a killing. Under then-Gov. Jeb Bush, the state in 2005 passed a broad “stand your ground” law, which allows Florida residents to use deadly force against a threat without attempting to back down from the situation. (More stringent self-defense laws state that gun owners have “a duty to retreat” before resorting to killing.)
The Florida courts have upheld the law and issued some truly shocking findings.
This has led to some stunning verdicts in the state. In Tallahassee in 2008, two rival gangs engaged in a neighborhood shootout, and a 15-year-old African American male was killed in the crossfire. The three defendants all either were acquitted or had their cases dismissed, because the defense successfully argued they were defending themselves under the “stand your ground” law. The state attorney in Tallahassee, Willie Meggs, was beside himself. “Basically this law has put us in the posture that our citizens can go out into the streets and have a gun fight and the dead person is buried and the survivor of the gun fight is immune from prosecution,” he said at the time.
One of those defendants ended up receiving a conviction for attempted voluntary manslaughter for an unrelated case, in which he shot indiscriminately at two people in a car.
The only hope Trayvon Martin’s family may have is for the U.S. Justice Department to step in and investigate the shooting as a hate crime. And I just saw the news breaking on Twitter that the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have opened an investigation into the Trayvon Martin case.
Here are a couple of articles about the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law and its impact on the courts.
Slate: Why Trayvon Martin’s Killer Remains Free: “Florida’s self-defense laws have left Florida safe for no one—except those who shoot first.”
Boy am I glad Massachusetts has tough gun laws! Florida college students held a rally yesterday in Sanford, FL, the Orlando suburb where the shooting took place.
College students around Florida are rallying Monday to demand the arrest of a neighborhood watch captain who fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Students rallied in front of the Seminole County criminal courts building in Sanford – the central Florida city where the shooting occurred – and on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
In the courts building is the State Attorney’s Office, where prosecutors will review the case and decide whether to file criminal charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Martin on Feb. 26.
Demonstrators are demanding the arrest of the 28-year-old Zimmerman, who authorities say shot the teenager during a confrontation in a gated community. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense; Florida law allows a person to use deadly force if the person believes he or she is facing a deadly threat.
The problem is that Zimmerman actually pursued Martin and had the boy pinned face down on the ground when he pulled the trigger. He wasn’t “standing his ground.” He initiated a confrontation with a boy who weighed 140 pounds, nearly 100 pounds less than Zimmerman.
Just a couple more links.
Al Sharpton at HuffPo announcing his rally in Sanford on Thursday.
On Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m., National Action Network (NAN) and I will convene an urgent rally at the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford, FL. to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. We will be joined by community leaders and concerned citizens from all ethnicities, backgrounds and walks of life that cannot even begin to comprehend this nightmarish situation. A young teenager walking home, armed only with candy and a drink, should never lose his/her life because someone in a gated community feels ‘threatened.’ George Zimmerman, the accused adult shooter, is roaming the earth freely while Trayvon’s mother, father and family members must bury their precious child. It is an atrocious miscarriage of justice, and we demand that authorities in Florida arrest Zimmerman immediately and charge him for the crime of murder. Anyone with sound reasoning cannot disagree.
Sharpton goes on to discuss the “Stand Your Ground Laws” and why they shouldn’t apply to what Zimmerman did. To me, the 911 calls are evidence that Zimmerman was the aggressor. At least five individuals saw the altercation and heard Trayvon’s screams for help while George Zimmerman lay on top of him.
At the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates pulls a quote from the Miami Herald story I linked earlier:
“We are taking a beating over this,” said [Bill] Lee, who defends the investigation. “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.”
Bill Lee is the Sanford police chief who let George Zimmerman go free without even taking a drug and alcohol text. He thinks Trayvon should have done things differently. What does that mean? That it was wrong for this boy to go to the corner store for some candy and a bottle of iced tea? There’s more about Zimmerman’s attitudes at the link.
I’ll end with this: What bothers me most is that Trayvon’s body was taken to the morgue as an unidentified person. The body was held there for three days, supposedly because the boy had no ID. But I learned last night that Trayvon had his cell phone with him. The boy’s father was calling the cell phone, and there certainly should have been a way to identify the boy from that phone. Why couldn’t they call the last number called? Why didn’t the police go door to door in the neighborhood and try to find out who the boy was? Surely that alone is evidence of profiling. The assumption was that the boy didn’t come from that neighborhood.
That’s it for me for today. What are you reading and blogging about?