The phantom Nazis of Sanford, and other tales
On Monday, the special prosecutor appointed by Florida governor Rick Scott to handle the Trayvon Martin shooting, State Attorney Angela Corey, announced that she would not send the case to a grand jury. The grand jury had been scheduled to convene on Tuesday.
Legal experts cautioned that the move should not be interpreted as a sign of the strength, or weakness, of any case that might be brought against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot Martin. USA Today notes that Corey has a reputation for being an “aggressive” prosecutor. Defense lawyers say that getting indictments from a grand jury is relatively easy, because they only hear evidence from the prosecution, so Zimmerman might be better off leaving the case entirely in Corey’s hands.
On the other hand, the Martin family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said “we want to believe that this would be a positive sign that the prosecutor has enough information to arrest Trayvon Martin’s killer.” Since the special prosecutor will now have the sole responsibility for bringing charges, she’ll also bear the brunt of the criticism if no charges are brought. It seems likely that such criticism would be… intense.
Things are tense in Sanford, Florida, where local news station WKMG reports that a police car “parked near the apartment complex of the Trayvon Martin shooting scene was found Tuesday morning with bullet holes in it.” To be specific, six shots were heard by witnesses, but only two hit the unoccupied cop car, knocking out one of its windows. The car was parked across the street from the now-famous Twin Lakes apartments, near an elementary school.
Meanwhile, in Gainesville, Florida – a hundred miles northwest of Sanford – the local Gainesville Sun reports what police believe to be a “racially motivated attack,” in which a white man walking home from the bars on Saturday night was attacked by a group of five to eight men who shouted Trayvon Martin’s name before delivering a five-minute beating. A Gainesville police department spokesman reported the victim would likely have “permanent disfigurement to the left side of his face.”
It will be interesting to see if this story gets as much play as the “Nazis in Sanford” boomlet, which bubbled through the blogosphere over the Easter weekend, and got as far as the Miami Herald, New York Post, Huffington Post, and New York Daily News. As summarized by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, a few reporters relayed claims from a neo-Nazi whack job in Detroit that his organization was sending “heavily armed patrols” to Sanford, in anticipation of violent riots. It took a surprisingly long time for anyone to contact the Sanford Police Department and ask if they had seen any heavily armed Nazis skulking about.
The phantom Nazis of Sanford were “too good to check” for some people, who either want the news from that troubled Florida city to be as lurid and spectacular as possible, or want some white-supremacist seasoning added to the bubbling stew of tension for moral equivalence purposes.
There are some people planning violence in Sanford, but they belong to the New Black Panther Party. In the course of a Friday conference call to organize a “Day of Action” on Monday, NBPP chief of staff Michelle Williams and national spokesman Chawn Kweli said some rather incendiary things, as transcribed by The Blaze:
Williams: I just want to say to all the listeners on this phone call, that if you are having any doubt about getting suited, booted, and armed up for this race war that we’re in that has never ended, let me tell you somethin…the thing that’s about to happen these honkies, these crackers, these pigs, these people, these motherf*er…it has been long overdue.”
Kweli: “Ya, what she said was right– we got to suit up and boot up…and get prepared for the war that we’re in…this stuff got to boil over, and all your great’s talked about that happened to be bloodshed involved with revolution- true revolution means some bloodshed, so there‘s blood being spilled because there’s a new life that is beyond this bloodshed. There is a new reality that is built upon your original African principles and spiritualities and values and norms that is beyond this bloodshed. But we gotta go do it.
(Emphasis in the original.) Kweli also called for the “starvation” and “complete removal” of capitalism, because “it is racism that keeps them perpetuating a capitalistic motion.” Sheesh, Mr. Kweli, just have a little patience. We’ve got a massive government working to starve capitalism as fast as it can.
Williams also confirmed that the bounty placed on George Zimmerman’s head by the NBPP was for “the arrest – dead or alive – of George Zimmerman,” and said she was “for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem just to avoid violence.”
Now, one might say that racist nutjobs make a lot of chilling boasts, whether they’re neo-Nazis lurking in Detroit, or New Black Panthers. The difference is that there really are New Black Panthers in Sanford. Zimmerman’s family has lately been wondering why Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t seem terribly interested in investigating the NBPP for hate crimes, hiring bounty hunters, and inciting violence.
As for the “Day of Action,” it didn’t really come together in the way Williams and Kweli wanted, although a group of students did manage to shut down the Sanford Police Department on Monday by kneeling in front of the doors. They demanded “Zimmerman’s arrest, an overhaul of the justice system, and the ouster of elected officials.”
According to WKMG News, they received a phone call from special prosecutor Angela Corey, who “asked the students for patience and ensured that she is conducting a fair investigation.” (I assume this means she “assured them” she’s conducting a fair investigation.) The students also heard from the Sanford city manager and some other officials, before departing and allowing the police station to re-open. Officials said “the closing had a minimal effect on police and fire responses to emergency calls.”
Also of note, racial arsonist Al Sharpton’s promised “occupation” of Sanford over Easter Weekend fizzled, as he returned to Harlem for TV appearances and church services. The Daily Caller reports that neither Sharpton’s National Action Network, nor the “news” network that employs him, would comment on the situation, but the Caller speculates developments in the case might have convinced him the “occupation” wasn’t worth his time any more.
The most notorious story of media malpractice in the Trayvon Martin case took some strange turns over the past week, as NBC News concluded its “internal investigation” of audio it falsely edited to portray George Zimmerman as a racist… and declared it was a “mistake,” a claim so laughable that it caused spit-takes across the media landscape. Somehow this very precise edit, removing the voice of the 911 dispatcher who specifically asked Zimmerman about the race of the person he was observing, was inadvertently executed by a random jerk of somebody’s elbow, then rocketed past dozens of people, who were working on the biggest news story in America.
Among others, actor Don Cheadle leveled a deadly Tweet at NBC, which said the Zimmerman edit was “It an error made in the production process that we deeply regret.” Cheadle retorted, “Really? ‘Error?’ Anybody out there know anything about editing?”
Alas, after an evening of raking NBC over the coals, Cheadle concluded “Oh, and righties, I don’t hate you but I ain’t a new recruit.” It’s possible he will change his mind once he sees our impressive collection of witty T-shirts.
Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller, who has been covering the NBC story like the “War Machine” powered armor covered Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2, noted that NBC dealt with this “mistake” by supposedly firing a producer it refuses to identify… and then cleansing evidence of other, widespread uses of the deceptive edit from the Internet.
The theme tying all of the Sanford news together is the ongoing personalization of the case, which produces emotional responses instead of reasoned discussion. One of the students who shut down the Sanford Police Department said that “if Dr. King were alive today, he would know that his dream has not come true… because if it had, we would not have to be here and Trayvon Martin would still be alive.”
From personalization come such massive extrapolations, as can also be seen in various claims that concealed-carry permits, “stand your ground” laws, and neighborhood watch patrols are what “really” killed Trayvon Martin. The logical relationship between such things and the Sanford shooting, and the scarcity of similar incidents that might suggest some broader “crisis,” drowns in a wave of hysteria.
President Obama made a dismaying contribution to this atmosphere when he inserted himself into the case, and observed that Trayvon Martin looked like the son he never had. That’s how individuals become symbols, and the facts of a legal case yield to mythology. A lot of people have a vested interest in the mythology of Sanford now, and some of them will not find backing down as easy as Al Sharpton did. At some point in the next few days, a single individual, the State Attorney, will decide whether or not to arrest George Zimmerman. If she chooses not to, she may quickly discover just how personal this mythology can get.