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“Out Damn Spot, Just Go Away”: George Zimmerman Is Enjoying His Celebrity Post Acquittal Victory Tour

As Trayvon Martin’s parents headed to Washington for a protest commemorating the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, their son’s killer was touring the factory that produced the gun he used to kill their son, and posing for celebrity photos while he was there. Fittingly, celebrity gossip site TMZ broke the news of George Zimmerman’s visit to the Kel-Tec factory last Thursday. Trayvon Martin’s killer is clearly enjoying his post-acquittal right-wing folk-hero status.

Meanwhile, his brother jumped on the bandwagon of white grievance-mongers playing up the alleged racial angle of the murder of Australian baseball player Chris Lane, who was killed by three young men, two black and one white. “Mainstream media is side stepping the fact that one of the alleged murderers openly professed on social media to ‘hate’ white people,” Robert Zimmerman told the Daily Caller. “Which one of these three teens looks most like Obama’s theoretical son?”

I’m sorry, America, we’re stuck with the Zimmermans. They won’t go away. Rather than recoil from his status as the man who shot an unarmed 17-year-old, George Zimmerman is enjoying his celebrity, while Robert Zimmerman continues to collaborate with the right-wing media-entertainment complex to make his brother out to be the real victim in Sanford, Fla., last year – the victim, first, of “thuggish” Trayvon Martin, and then of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as Martin’s parents.

Somewhat surprisingly, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara released a statement criticizing his client for his gun factory visit in harsh and vivid terms. “We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”

I don’t recall O’Mara playing up the fact that the 17-year-old Martin was shot, at close range, “through the heart” during the trial, but maybe he thought the dramatic statement might help distance him from what could be his client’s post-acquittal victory tour. (I should note Vincent’s statement to Reuters didn’t include those words.) With Yahoo News, Vincent continued: “We are George’s legal representation, but I don’t think he takes our advice on how he lives his life or what factories he decides to tour. We represented him in court. We got the verdict that we believe is just, and the rest of George’s life is up to George.”

Translation: Don’t blame us for whatever Zimmerman does next.

Part of what made the Zimmerman acquittal hard to take was the shooter’s utter lack of remorse for killing Martin. Even if you believed every word of his self-defense claim, it had to be hard to imagine having no regrets about the death of a teenager. Even Sean Hannity, who normally appears conscience-free, asked Zimmerman if he had “regrets” about getting out of his car and following Martin, which led to their confrontation and the boy’s shooting. “It was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it,” Zimmerman told Hannity, his voice trailing off.

That’s the kind of cluelessness that would lead a guy to tour the factory that made the gun he used to kill Martin, and to pose grinning with a star-struck factory worker like he’s Frank Sinatra visiting a local trattoria.

It’s particularly sad that Zimmerman’s visit came on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which was commemorated Saturday by a civil rights convening that included Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents. The issues of racial profiling, stop and frisk and “stand your ground” laws are animating a new movement for racial justice, and Martin has become a symbol of the way young black men are treated at the hands of police as well as vigilantes like Zimmerman. “Trayvon Martin was my son, but he’s not just my son, he’s all of our son, and we have to fight for our children,” Fulton told the crowd.

But to Zimmerman’s defenders, Martin is a symbol of predatory young black men, and Zimmerman is the hero enacting “God’s plan” to fight back. Not surprisingly, his brother defended his gun factory victory tour. “George is a free man and as such is entitled to visit, tour, frequent or patronize any business or locale he wishes,” Robert Zimmerman told Yahoo News. So don’t expect Zimmerman’s victory tour to end any time soon.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“He’s Back On The Beat”: Does Wanna Be Cop George Zimmerman’s Car Hero Story Add Up?

It seemed stranger than fiction, as even his lawyer acknowledged, that George Zimmerman’s first appearance just days after he was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin would be to rescue a nice family of four from their overturned SUV. But that’s what reportedly happened on July 17, leading his defenders to call him a hero and some critics to claim the event was a hoax aimed at boosting his popularity.

It does seem like an odd coincidence: Zimmerman just happened to be on the scene of the crash at the right moment, and happened to have a fire extinguisher with him to put out the flaming car. And now the family he saved abruptly canceled the press conference they had planned to thank Zimmerman. It’s all too much to believe for the Zimmerman Rescue Truthers, who emerged immediately after the news broke.

“Even if we had a videotape of the accident, they would still say it was made up. So you can’t really respond to people who just don’t want to listen to the truth,” Zimmerman defense attorney Mark O’Mara told CNN. “The idea that this was made up — it’s just the same people who refuse to accept the jury’s verdict, just want to be angry, just want to hate George Zimmerman, are still going to hate him.”

He’s probably right. As we’ve noted, conspiracy theories are basically impossible to stamp out. And in this case, the circumstances are just too weird, and the potential public relations benefit for Zimmerman — and thus the perceived incentive to stage the scene — too obvious to explain away for those who are upset about the verdict. Fox News, whose opinion hosts have pretty openly sided with Zimmerman, reported that at an NAACP meeting, “there was a lot — a lot — of skepticism, people saying they don’t believe a word of this.”

“Zimmerman can pull someone from a burning car, but he can’t a push 17-year-old, 150 pound boy off of him?” asked one tweeter. On Twitter, the skeptics appeared to be predominantly liberal and disproportionately minorities — the same kinds of people who have been pushing for harsher punishment of Zimmerman all along — while others questioned the police officers involved.

“There’s something fishy about this #Zimmerman Rescue,” another person tweeted. “Feels too perfectly timed and convenient.”

One blog advancing the conspiracy narrative that went viral posted screen shots of what appears to be the Facebook page of the officer who responded to the crash, which shows that he posted numerous photos and messages supporting Zimmerman days before and after the accident. Most criticized the media and liberals who turned the case into a race issue. “If Trayvon Martin had been killed in Afghanistan, Barack Obama wouldn’t even know his name,” reads one popular image macro the officer posted. Yet the officer, who posted about other activities of his duty life, didn’t post anything about his run in with Zimmerman. The only reference to the accident was a few days later, when he linked to a local news story and wrote, “I sorta made the news…”

That conspiracy blog even claims that it has a source, whom it does not identify, who saw phone records showing that the officer alerted Zimmerman about the crash before authorities arrived so Zimmerman could end up in the police report and look like a hero. We asked the unnamed blogger for more info about his source, but the blogger didn’t respond.

Theorists have also speculated that Zimmerman might have a police scanner, given his work as a neighborhood watchman and his current fear for his own safety, and that he used it to respond to the crash before authorities could get there.

They also wonder why none of the multiple 9-1-1 calls mention Zimmerman, though some mention two men on the scene, and why O’Mara says his client didn’t mention the crash when they met the next day. And why none of the family members in the crash mentioned the crash on their Facebook or Twitter pages. And why are there no photos of the crash? All the data points don’t really make sense together — was the entire crash staged, or did Zimmerman show up to intentionally take credit for saving the family? — but various skeptics differ on how much of the accident they think was staged.

Still, even O’Mara acknowledged that the whole thing is a bit weird. “I will acknowledge it was coincidental four or five days after the verdict, but it was not set up, or staged. Really, do you think we would’ve set up a family of four on the side (of the road), destroying an SUV?” the defense lawyer told a local TV station.

The family Zimmerman helped save, he said, didn’t feel comfortable coming forward given all the heat on Zimmerman at the moment. Indeed, TV news trucks have been staked out near their house, much to their dismay, but in refusing to speak with the press, even just to confirm that Zimmerman was on the scene, they’ve helped fuel the conspiracy narrative.

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 26, 2013

July 27, 2013 Posted by | George Zimmerman | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“From Lament To Rallying Cry”: Disappointment Is For People Who Have Faith In The System

There isn’t a good reason for me to be as angry as I am over the “not guilty” verdict handed down for George Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. I always knew that would be the outcome. No amount of flat-out lies or inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s story, nor compassion for two grieving parents who lost their son in the most heinous and senseless of ways, was going to override the lack of respect the United States justice system has for black bodies. Disappointment is for people who have faith in the system. I knew that better than I know my own name.

And yet there I was, crying rage-filled tears as “ZIMMERMAN NOT GUILTY” appeared on television. Because no amount of cynicism can override the pain of knowing a 17-year-old boy is dead through no fault of his own, and no one will be held accountable.

Perhaps the state of Florida is at fault: the prosecutors could have put together a stronger case. Perhaps the jury is at fault: maybe they didn’t notice Zimmerman’s lies and call his version of events into question the way they could have. But in truth, the whole damn country is at fault for continuing to allow the racist ideology that renders blackness a threat to the American way of life. The auction blocks and “Colored only” signs are past, but we haven’t learned the lessons of our history; we’re merely products of it.

George Zimmerman was prosecuted, yes, but he was never really on trial. Trayvon Martin’s lifeless body was put on trial for having the audacity to exist and be black. Zimmerman started that the night he killed Trayvon, profiling the lanky teen for being “up to no good” and not belonging in his gated community—when he had no information to go on besides the fact Trayvon was walking in the rain. During the trial, defense attorneys Mark O’Mara and Don West trotted out every racist stereotype attached to black boys throughout history, suggesting that Trayvon used supernatural size, strength and speed to beat Zimmerman. To my disgust, O’Mara literally invoked the same justification for killing Trayvon as was used to justify lynchings. He called to the witness stand Olivia Bertalan, one of Zimmerman’s former neighbors, who told the story of her home being burglarized by two young African-American boys while she and her children feared for their lives. It was terrifying indeed, and it had absolutely no connection to the case at hand. But O’Mara presented the jury with the “perfect victim,” which Trayvon could never be: a white woman living in fear of black criminals. Zimmerman had offered to help her the night her home was robbed. Implicit in the defense’s closing argument: he was also protecting her the night he killed Trayvon Martin.

On MSNBC’s UP w/ Steve Kornacki, Daryl Parks, the attorney for Trayvon’s family, said he didn’t want to call O’Mara a racist. But when you traffic in those racist tropes in a court of law, it doesn’t matter if you’re labeled a racist or not. The damage is done.

In a statement released the day after the verdict was announced, President Obama said: “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.” But I ask him, and everyone else who says we must respect the verdict: How long are we supposed to remain calm when the laws we are called to respect exist in an open assault on our humanity? The arc of the moral universe bends slowly. Our lives are on the line right now.

But if we are, as I suggested, merely products of our history, then alongside our history of injustice exists a history of resistance, and this, too, has taken shape in the aftermath. I was in New York City to witness and participate in the rally-turned-march that took over the streets of midtown, as thousands of people of marched from Union Square Park to Times Square. Parents brought their children; one wore a homemade sign that read, “Don’t Shoot Me.” People cheered from the sidelines, and on occasion joined in. Cars respected the new traffic laws or were met with fierce opposition when they didn’t. A man stood asking, “Have you ever considered Zimmerman was not guilty?” He identified himself as an attorney, but his question went ignored.

Trayvon’s name became a rallying cry. It mingled with the call-and-response chants of “No justice, no peace!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the new Jim Crow has got to go!” The police did what they could to stop the march, but in the end they just weren’t any match for the power of a people determined to fight the injustice in this country.

I watched nearly every minute of George Zimmerman’s trial, and the disappointment I felt during that time was replaced by faint bits of hope as I watched so many people come together for Trayvon (and Oscar Grant, and Sean Bell, and Rekia Boyd and Aiyana Stanley-Jones…). It affirmed something I had been feeling in recent months.

For those of us left among the marginalized and oppression, be they black boys buying Skittles in Florida; women raising their voices against virulent anti-abortion measures in Texas, Ohio or North Carolina; prisoners going hungry in California; innocent men awaiting execution in Georgia; little girls lying asleep in Detroit; or transwomen who defend themselves and end up locked behind bars in Minnesota; the time is now to commit to the revolutionary project of living our lives out loud. Our rage is valuable, whether we anticipate its coming or not.

So what’s next? My fellow Nation contributor Salamishah Tillet told me a story about the legendary jazz singer Nina Simone. After the church bombing that killed the four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama, Simone went to her shed and tried to make herself a gun. Her husband walked in on her and asked what she was doing. She replied she was making a gun because she wanted to kill someone. He replied, “But you’re a musician.” Then she wrote “Mississippi Goddamn.”

What’s next is that each of us take whatever gift we have and use it in a way that honors and values black life. That is the legacy Trayvon Martin can leave to this world.

 

By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, July 15, 2013

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Racism, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Justice Denied”: In Just The Latest Sad Chapter In American Race Relations, George Zimmerman Acquitted

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges Saturday in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager whose killing unleashed furious debate across the U.S. over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice.

Zimmerman, 29, blinked and barely smiled when the verdict was announced. He could have been convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter. But the jury of six women, all but one of them white, reached a verdict of not guilty after deliberating well into the night. Their names have not been made public, and they declined to speak to the media.

Martin’s mother and father were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read; supporters of his family who had gathered outside yelled “No! No!” upon learning of the not guilty verdict.

The teen’s father, Tracy, reacted on Twitter: “Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY.”

His mother also said on Twitter that she appreciated the prayers from supporters.

“Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have,” she wrote.

The jurors considered nearly three weeks of often wildly conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor on the rainy night the 17-year-old was shot while walking through the gated townhouse community where he was staying.

Defense attorneys said the case was classic self-defense, claiming Martin knocked Zimmerman down and was slamming the older man’s head against the concrete sidewalk when Zimmerman fired his gun.

“We’re ecstatic with the results,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara after the verdict. “George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense.”

Another member of his defense team, Don West, said he was pleased the jury “kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty.”

Prosecutors called Zimmerman a liar and portrayed him was a “wannabe cop” vigilante who had grown frustrated by break-ins in his neighborhood committed primarily by young black men. Zimmerman assumed Martin was up to no good and took the law into his own hands, prosecutors said.

State Attorney Angela Corey said after the verdict that she believed second-degree murder was the appropriate charge because Zimmerman’s mindset “fit the bill of second-degree murder.”

“We charged what we believed we could prove,” Corey said.

As the verdict drew near, police and city leaders in the Orlando suburb of Sanford and other parts of Florida said they were taking precautions against the possibility of mass protests or unrest in the event of an acquittal.

“There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence,” Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said immediately after jurors began deliberating. “We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully.”

O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, said his client is aware he has to be cautious and protective of his safety.

“There still is a fringe element that wants revenge,” O’Mara said. “They won’t listen to a verdict of not guilty.”

The verdict came a year and a half after civil rights protesters angrily demanded Zimmerman be prosecuted. That anger appeared to return Saturday night outside the courthouse, at least for some who had been following the case.

Rosie Barron, 50, and Andrew Perkins, 55, both black residents of Sanford, stood in the parking lot of the courthouse and wept.

“I at least thought he was going to get something, something,” Barron said.

Added her brother: “How the hell did they find him not guilty?”

Perkins was so upset he was shaking. “He killed somebody and got away with murder,” Perkins shouted, looking in the direction of the courthouse. “He ain’t getting no probation or nothing.”

Several Zimmerman supporters also were outside the courthouse, including a brother and sister quietly rejoicing that Zimmerman was acquitted. Both thought the jury made the right decision in finding Zimmerman not guilty — they felt that Zimmerman killed Martin in self-defense.

Cindy Lenzen, 50, of Casslebury, and her brother, 52-year-old Chris Bay, stood watching the protesters chant slogans such as, “the whole system’s guilty.”

Lenzen and Bay — who are white — called the entire case “a tragedy,” especially for Zimmerman.

“It’s a tragedy that he’s going to suffer for the rest of his life,” Bay said. “No one wins either way. This is going to be a recurring nightmare in his mind every night.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Martin’s hometown of Miami said the streets were quiet, with no indication of problems. The neighborhood where Martin’s father lives in Miami Gardens was equally quiet.

Zimmerman wasn’t arrested for 44 days after the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting as police in Sanford insisted that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law on self-defense prohibited them from bringing charges. Florida gives people wide latitude to use deadly force if they fear death or bodily harm.

Martin’s parents, along with civil rights leaders such as the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, argued that Zimmerman — whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic — had racially profiled their son. And they accused investigators of dragging their feet because Martin was a black teenager.

Before a special prosecutor assigned to the case ordered Zimmerman’s arrest, thousands of protesters gathered in Sanford, Miami, New York and elsewhere, many wearing hoodies like the one Martin had on the night he died. They also carried Skittles and a can of iced tea, items Martin had in his pocket. President Barack Obama weighed in, saying that if he had a son, “he’d look like Trayvon.”

Despite the racially charged nature of the case, race was barely mentioned at the trial. Even after the verdict, prosecutors said the case was not about race.

“This case has never been about race or the right to bear arms,” Corey said. “We believe this case all along was about boundaries, and George Zimmerman exceeded those boundaries.”

One of the few mentions of race came from witness Rachel Jeantel, the Miami teen who was talking to Martin by phone moments before he was shot. She testified that he described being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker” as he walked through the neighborhood.

Jeantel gave some of the trial’s most riveting testimony. She said she overheard Martin demand, “What are you following me for?” and then yell, “Get off! Get off!” before his cellphone went dead.

The jurors had to sort out clashing testimony from 56 witnesses in all, including police, neighbors, friends and family members.

For example, witnesses who got fleeting glimpses of the fight in the darkness gave differing accounts of who was on top. And Martin’s parents and Zimmerman’s parents both claimed that the person heard screaming for help in the background of a neighbor’s 911 call was their son. Numerous other relatives and friends weighed in, too, as the recording was played over and over in court. Zimmerman had cuts and scrapes on his face and the back of his head, but prosecutors suggested the injuries were not serious.

To secure a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors had to convince the jury that Zimmerman acted with a “depraved” state of mind — that is, with ill will, hatred or spite. Prosecutors said he demonstrated that when he muttered, “F—— punks. These a——-. They always get away” during a call to police as he watched Martin walk through his neighborhood.

To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors had to convince the jury only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.

 

By: The Associated Press, Salon, July 14, 2013

July 14, 2013 Posted by | Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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