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2:00pm March 21, 2012

Black Caucus on Trayvon Martin: “This is Unbelievable”

Emanuel Cleaver II, Barbara Lee, Bobby Rush,

“This is unbelievable for 2012.  It is so tragic. I listened to that tape and just became so angry that I could hardly move and I was moving between anger and tears,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).  The CBC’s top agenda item at their Wednesday weekly meeting will be the killing of 17 year old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Martin was killed on February 26 after an encounter with a self appointed “neighborhood watchman” named George Zimmerman who contacted police 46 times in 13 months. On February 26 saying that Martin looked “suspicious.”

In a statement Monday, the Congressional Black Caucus urged the Department of Justice to pursue the matter as a hate crime.  On Monday night the Justice Department issued a statement saying they would investigate Martin’s killing.  On Tuesday, a grand jury was called in Florida to investigate the case.

Tapes of 911 calls related to Martin’s murder as well as calls from neighbors who heard yelling at the scene were released last Friday after Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee met with Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL).  A renewed firestorm of attention followed.

“I have never in my life seen such a failure with a system,” Rep. Brown said Monday. “There was no drug testing. There was no lie detector test.  They didn’t even secure the crime scene,” she added.  Brown met with Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee last Friday.

“I spent two hours with him [Chief Lee] Friday and we got the family in there.  I got them to release the tapes.  I wanted to make sure it wasn’t sliced and make sure the tape was authentic and hadn’t been messed with.  Chief Lee tried to imply to me that this man [Zimmerman] was innocent.  I said he couldn’t be innocent because he was following the boy.  How could he be innocent?”  Congresswoman Brown said emphatically.

Rep. Brown was particularly focused on making sure the tapes being provided by Sanford Police were authentic.  There have been media reports that Zimmerman used a racial epithet during his call to police.   If true, the CBC urging the Justice Department to review Martin’s killing as a hate crime would have particular relevance.

“Everyone needs to feel that the system is fair.  Nowhere in this country could a Black man shoot a White boy and not be arrested,” Brown said.  That sentiment was echoed by several of Brown’s colleagues.

When asked if he’d be requesting that the Justice Department investigate the Sanford Police Department, Cleaver responded, “absolutely” adding, “the police department is almost an accessory to the crime. They did nothing,” Cleaver said.

Florida Reps. Brown, Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) met in Brown’s office Tuesday with the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Tony Perez and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin, Jr.  Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte flew to Washington and attended the meeting, as well.

Rep. Hastings said Mayor Triplett handed the 911 tapes related to the Zimmerman shooting to Perez at the meeting.

At a press conference following the meeting, Brown said it was her understanding that officers at the scene of Martin’s death made the decision not to arrest Zimmerman.  Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte indicated that the decision not to arrest Zimmerman never went higher than the officers on the scene.  Sanford Mayor Triplett did not dispute that statement.

All the members who met with the Department of Justice officials were pleased to have met with them – but, they were also very cautious.

“Here is the thing to watch for: The bar for the Justice Department is way up here,” said Rep. Hastings, an attorney and former Federal Judge, as he held his hand high in the air.

“What I said to Tony [Perez] is to look for several things. First off: Was there a possibility of a cover up. Second, who are the people that constitute the grand jury — all of us know that the grand jury is the prosecutors playhouse,” Hastings added.

The Florida members also remarked that the section of Florida where Martin’s shooting happened has a reputation for being “racist.” Rep. Wilson said that Sanford has had a particularly racist past.  Rep. Hastings supported that view.  Wilson represents Miami where Trayvon Martin went to school.  Wilson also stated that Martin has an uncle who is in the law enforcement community.

Hastings added that Trayvon Martin’s body was tested for drugs and alcohol. “Why wasn’t Mr. Shooter tested?” Hastings wondered.  “So there are serious questions — it points out the silliness and craziness of gun laws and allowing all sorts of people to have concealed weapons,” argued Hastings.  “This is not the wild wild west — we are supposed to be civil society.”

Why hasn’t Zimmerman been arrested.  Chief Lee cited a law called “stand your ground” which allows a would-be crime victim who feels they are “in fear of great bodily injury” to use deadly force.  However, in the case of Trayvon Martin, tapes of Zimmerman’s conversation with a 911 dispatcher indicate the shooter pursed a confrontation with Martin.

Zimmerman has admitted shooting Martin with a 9mm handgun.  Martin was found to have a pack of Skittles candy, $22 dollars and a bottle of iced tea on his person as he walked back to his father’s home from a local 7-Eleven.  News reports mention that Martin’s cell phone is missing.

According to the Sanford police, Zimmerman claimed he was the one yelling for help.  Martin’s parents say it was their son’s voice calling for help on the tape.   On the audio tapes released Friday the cries for help stop when a gunshot is heard.

“They hadn’t even analyzed whose voice was on the tape.  Police Chief [Lee] was telling me it was his voice — the man,” Rep. Brown said referring to George Zimmerman.  “The police told him to stand down. Why didn’t he? There was nothing going on,” she added.

Florida Congressman Allen West also commented on the situation on Monday. “It is a horrific thing that a 17-year old man to have been shot,” Rep. West, a 22 year Army veteran said.

“I’m not in the investigation but there’s no probable cause for that young man to have been shot.  That’s why we have to be careful about these community watch volunteer groups.  You have to make sure you have the right type of rules of engagement criteria …” West added.

“To me it’s murder. It’s racial profiling followed by murder.  I can’t understand why Zimmerman has not been arrested,” Rep. Wilson said to Rev. Al Sharpton on his MSNBC show Politics Nation.  Sharpton and radio host Michael Baisden are leading a rally on the Trayvon Martin incident on Thurday.  Reps. Brown and Wilson will attend.

Rep. Cleaver, who is a United Methodist Minister and has three sons, was asked about the impact the Trayvon Martin case has had on him personally.

“My wife and I talked about this last night on the phone and I said — we need to tell our kids to avoid going to Florida.  Because with this ‘stand your ground’ law — it’s almost an invitation to kill somebody… this is scary,” Cleaver said.

LAUREN VICTORIA BURKEPolitic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus.  She is heard every Tuesday on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WHUR and WPFW in Washington DC. You can follow her on twitter at @crewof42



About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
is the Managing Editor of Politic365 and publishes the blog Crewof42 on Black members of Congress. She can be seen occasionally on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin. Ms. Burke has enjoyed employment with USAToday and ABC News and holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Contact: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @Crewof42




 
 

 
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20 Comments


  1. melvin polatnick

    If Zimmerman went to an interracial school, he would have learned that a white guy should never try to duke it out with a black teenager. He got the shock of his life after getting his ass whipped, but instead of accepting the beating, he bought it to the next level by shooting an innocent guy who refused to be disrespected.


    • fletchisrhsm

      Right because all black guys are "tougher" then all white guys? Maybe Zimmerman is just an ass hole? Nah, couldnt be that, Melvin needs something to build himself up.


    • Joy

      There is no report of the black kid fighting the man. The tapes show the man watching the boy and then getting out of his car, chasing him down and then shooting and ultimately killing him. No justice in America


  2. This is very fascinating, You’re an overly skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to in the hunt for extra of your wonderful post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks


  3. Guest

    Read the witness statements – Martin attacked Zimmerman causing a bloody gash on the back of Zimmerman's head. Both witnesses stated to police that Zimmerman was attacked and beaten by Martin before Zimmerman took steps to defend himself. Zimmerman belonged in that neighborhood. Martin did not. Martin was not innocent, but innocent whites are murdered daily by blacks for simply walking down a ghetto street. Where are those protests?


    • Number one: What exact witness statements are you referring to? Send a link.
      Number two: I suggest you listen very carefully to George Zimmerman's call to Police. HE pursued Trayvon Martin. Martin did not pursue him. Stop creating the reality you feel comfortable with and LISTEN http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/what-happ
      If Zimmerman following and then confronting Martin resulted in him getting his ass kicked that's on Zimmerman. What was he doing following Martin in the first place?

      Number three: Changing the subject to some imagined racist fantasy victim scenario will do nothing to change the reality of what happened in Trayvon Martin's case.


    • Shaliyah

      I've been reading about this and watching the news about this and never once did I hear about Martin attacking Zimmerman. Where did you read or see that??? Zimmerman chased him after being told by the police dispatcher not to. He approached Martin and asked him what he was doing around there, who the hell is he that someone has to give him a explanation as to why they're in "his" neighborhood??? After the tussle he stood over Martin and shot him. So you tell me why on earth is he not behind bars??? If the tussle would have resulted in Zimmerman being shot, Martin would have been arrested on site. BOTTOM LINE
      And as far as innocent whites being murdered by blacks is concerned, the idiot blacks who murder innocent whites are arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, so you can't compare that to this. If Zimmerman was arrested for this crime, there wouldn't be any need for protesting.


      • Mgpthoc

        False. The blacks who murdered another black on a bus still have not been charged. The blacks who broke a black woman's leg have never been brought to "justice" yetno complaints from Black Caucus, Al or any here….


    • dummies suck

      You dumb fucker, Whites are not killed by blacks but by their own. FBI crime stats prove that. Take your trolling ignorant racist ass elsewhere!


  4. Shaliyah

    I've been reading about this and watching the news about this and never once did I hear about Martin attacking Zimmerman. Where did you read or see that??? Zimmerman chased him after being told by the police dispatcher not to. He approached Martin and asked him what he was doing around there, who the hell is he that someone has to give him a explanation as to why they're in "his" neighborhood??? After the tussle he stood over Martin and shot him. So you tell me why on earth is he not behind bars??? If the tussle would have resulted in Zimmerman being shot, Martin would have been arrested on site. BOTTOM LINE


  5. Shaliyah

    And I really wish they would stop saying it wasn't a hate crime because Zimmerman isn't white. There are black people who hate other black people and racially profile them, so give me a break with that one. And as far as innocent whites being murdered by blacks is concerned, the idiot blacks who murder innocent whites are arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, so you can't compare that to this. If Zimmerman was arrested for this crime, there wouldn't be any need for protesting.


  6. Angela

    I have no worries." Thou shall not kill ". We must remember that God will handle this situation. Not the lawyers, judges, or the police. He got this and Zimmerman better watch out.


  7. Mgpyh

    More shoty writing. Zimmerman was not "self" appointented.


  8. DumbCrackersSuck

    Shaliyah, you IGNORANT ASS. FBI crime stats show 83% of whites killed are killed by other whites! http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the


  9. I actually enjoy, lead to I recently found just the thing I became having a look intended for. You’ve got wrapped up my personal three day time extensive quest! The almighty Bless you man. Employ a awesome evening. Ok bye



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