If you thought the Trayvon Martin case was just a local police matter which would be handled in a court of law, you are so sadly mistaken. It is a political matter now and you have to look no further than House Resolution 612 to get confirmation of that.
The resolution — sponsored by CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Florida Democratic Reps. Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson, all members of the CBC — refers to Martin’s killing as a “crime,” condemns “the inconceivable fact that his killer remains free” and claims “racial bias led to the use of deadly force.”
The non-binding resolution also “condemns unfounded reliance on Stand Your Ground laws to protect actions that extend far beyond historical use of self-defense … [and] urges any state legislature considering Stand Your Ground legislation to reject such proposals.”
Honoring the life of 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, urging the State of Florida and others to repeal the Stand Your Ground law, and admonishing involved parties to pursue full investigations into all homicides, regardless of defenses asserted by the offender.
Whereas on February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an African-American youth, was horrifically shot and killed while walking from his local 7-Eleven in Sanford, Florida, because he was viewed as `suspicious’ by George Zimmerman;
Whereas Zimmerman, a self-appointed, untrained neighborhood watch volunteer, admitted to police that he shot Martin in the chest;
Whereas Zimmerman raised a `self-defense’ claim and Martin, as the deceased victim, was unable to rebut such claim;
Whereas Zimmerman was never charged for the crime and was released by the Sanford Police Department soon thereafter;
Whereas despite the numerous pieces of evidence, including a 911 call made by Zimmerman, Martin’s final phone conversation which occurred during the course of the crime, the numerous calls made to 911 by nearby neighbors who heard the incident, and Zimmerman’s troubling legal history, the Sanford Police claimed they did not have enough evidence to detain Zimmerman and subsequently released him;
Whereas Zimmerman’s unfounded assumptions and racial bias led to the use of deadly force;
Whereas a month after the crime, Zimmerman remains free and still bears a concealed weapons permit and the legal right to carry a gun;
Whereas Trayvon Martin’s brutal death and the inconceivable fact that his killer remains free should not be ignored;
Whereas the Sanford Police Department and its Chief, who is on temporary administrative leave while the case is being investigated, have faced a firestorm of criticism over the handling of the shooting;
Whereas this case sets a horrific precedent of vigilante justice and compromises the integrity of the legal system;
Whereas the Department of Justice will investigate all facts and circumstances leading to Trayvon Martin’s death and consider Federal criminal prosecution of George Zimmerman based on Federal civil rights statutes;
Whereas over 2,000,000 signatures have been collected on an online petition demanding Zimmerman’s arrest and justice for Martin’s family;
Whereas Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been criticized by both the legal and law enforcement communities;
Whereas 21 States have passed and implemented Stand Your Ground laws;
Whereas Stand Your Ground laws dramatically and recklessly expand the right of citizens to use deadly force in self-defense, and have been the subject of national scrutiny in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death;
Whereas the Stand Your Ground laws were drafted by organizations, corporations, and individuals that ignored advice from experts explaining that such laws would compromise public safety, disproportionately impact communities of color, and would result in offenders circumventing prosecution;
Whereas an attempted expansion of the Stand Your Ground laws doctrine has resulted in the collaboration of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes conservative public policy by affecting change in State legislatures;
Whereas ALEC drafts model legislation for its members to champion and advance in their home States;
Whereas ALEC used Florida’s Stand Your Ground law as a template in its push to broaden the Castle Doctrine nationwide; and
Whereas the 2005 passage of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law resulted in similar statutes being passed in 16 other States: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
(1) admonishes any State, local agency, or official acting to obstruct an open investigation or failing to fully execute their official duties in the investigation of the events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin;
(2) condemns all relevant parties for their roles in proposing Stand Your Ground legislation and similar legislation that compromises public safety and the integrity of the prosecutorial system;
(3) condemns unfounded reliance on Stand Your Ground laws to protect actions that extend far beyond historical use of self-defense;
(4) urges any State legislature considering Stand Your Ground legislation to reject such proposals; and
(5) urges the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law in every applicable State, including Florida.
Unfortunately, George Zimmerman cannot sue Representatives Cleaver, Brown, Hastings, or Wilson for defamation as they have absolute legislative immunity. Moreover, the resolution reads like a bill of attainder which is forbidden by the Constitution.
The Hill reports that members of the Congressional Black Caucus are not done yet with their so-called legislative efforts.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), another CBC member, is crafting a proposal requiring members of Neighborhood Watch groups to be registered before taking to the streets under a watchman’s badge.
And Wilson, who represents the district where Martin lived, is working on legislation to create a national commission “to study race-based injustices, health disparities and economic disparities affecting African-American men and boys,” in the words of the congresswoman.
The commission would be charged with examining racial disparities on topics ranging from crime and incarcerations to education and healthcare, and making policy recommendations to Congress on how to fix any imbalances it finds.
Call me a cynic but none of their efforts are about “Justice for Trayvon™”, improvements to the criminal justice system in Florida, or legal standards for self-defense. Rather this resolution and the bills to follow are about the re-election of Barack Obama. They seek to keep the issue alive and kicking within the African-American community in hopes of generating the same sort of African-American voter turnout in 2012 as occurred in 2008. Without that turnout in battleground states such as North Carolina and Florida, Obama’s re-election becomes more iffy especially given the fragile state of the economy and historically high gasoline prices.
UPDATE: It looks like my instincts, cynical though they may be, are right on the mark about the Trayvon Martin case. Luther Campbell, a record producer and rapper, who blogs as “Uncle Luke” had this to say in his blog in the Miami New Times which was posted about an hour after my original post.
For more than two weeks, tens of thousands of African-Americans have been marching on public streets to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Miami Gardens teen killed by Sanford resident and overzealous neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. The marches have taken place from Los Angeles to Manhattan and from to St. Petersburg to Bayfront Park. They’ve included high school students, housewives, and professional activists. Yet when it comes time to march to the polls on Election Day, African-Americans are nowhere to be found.
We can’t continue taking to the streets to cry about our civil rights being violated when we are not exercising our right to vote. That’s the real injustice. By not voting, African-Americans end up with leaders who don’t respect them as constituents.
Campbell concludes with a call for African-Americans to march to the polls in November.
Instead of taking money to hold self-serving rallies, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson should be marching people to their local voter registration offices. The only way to stop injustices such as Trayvon Martin’s killing is to march when it really matters.
And that’s on Election Day.