By Opio Sokoni, MSCJ, JD
People have every right to be angry at the verdict in the George Zimmerman case. Look at the people who are speaking out. Are they all Black? I saw a middle age White man on YouTube ranting and destroying his house because of the verdict. His sons were trying, seriously, to calm him down. The man breaks down at the end and starts to cry. In Portland, Oregon the rally was mostly Whites; joined by Latinos and Blacks all speaking angrily about what they believed was a simple case of justice. Various types of people, other than Blacks, are expressing outrage. After the not guilty verdict, President Obama just simply said that the jury has spoken and that we are a nation of laws. He also made a political plug to end gun violence and advised that “we ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.” Huh? What? We hear too often that Obama is not the leader of Black America, but this is not just about African Americans.
There is now a call for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to bring a case against George Zimmerman. Following Obama’s comments after the verdict, which shows once again that he has no political courage when it comes to African Americans, this is what the DOJ had to say:
“As the Department first acknowledged last year, we have an open investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin. The Department of Justice’s Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial. Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department’s policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial.”
This is not a “yes” or “no” from the DOJ. They must determine whether George Zimmerman violated Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. What we know is that Zimmerman profiled Trayvon. He then used foul language in the process of observing and following the teen. George Zimmerman was known by the Sanford Police Department because he called them several times before – often reporting African-American males as looking suspicious. We also know that George Zimmerman wanted to be a cop and had a police officer as a best friend. That fatal night, Zimmerman overzealously operated outside of the scope of his title as a neighborhood watch captain.
Because of the state trial, we know most of the facts that lead to the death of Martin. Trayvon Martin was a teenager walking back home from the store. He is on the phone with his friend who lives in another city. While walking through the housing complex where he lives, a man in an SUV begins to stare at him. Then this strange man begins to follow him. Trayvon runs. They ultimately meet face to face. No one will dispute that Trayvon has done nothing wrong up to this point. But, there is now a confrontation – which the teen did not start. What must he do? They exchanged words, then get into a scuffle. George Zimmerman produced a loaded gun and shoots the boy at point-blank range in the heart. Trayvon Martin dies very soon thereafter. George Zimmerman claims self-defense.
Some may remember when the four police officers that beat Rodney King were acquitted by a local California court in Simi Valley. The Justice Department then brought a civil rights case against the four officers. Two of the cops were convicted and sent to jail. Many are hoping George Zimmerman will go to jail for intentionally shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. The feeling is that there is no freedom when a teen can be profiled, stalked and killed for doing nothing wrong – and no one goes to jail. This is a recipe for those who will take matters into their own hands – feeling that the government has failed. In addition, when someone sees Zimmerman on the streets, they may try and make a citizen’s arrest. Or, someone may confront him and dare him to do what he did to Trayvon. For now, people of all persuasions are making their voices heard. Public outcry is not the only reason that civil rights cases get brought by the Justice Department. But, protest and rebellion does not prevent it either.
Opio Sokoni is an activist, political commentator and author of several books, including “Controlling Blue: Race, Media and Policing.” He is a co-founder of Poli-Tainment, Inc. a nonprofit organization which uses various forms of entertainment to inform and bring people together. Find out more at www.Poli-Tainment.com.