Rep. Allen West, who has previously decried the police “mishandling” of the Trayvon Martin shooting as an “outrage” and called for a Justice Department investigation, on Wednesday found himself wondering why that very same Justice Department isn’t treating the New Black Panther Party’s bounty for the man who shot Martin as a “hate crime.”
From West’s Facebook page, here is his original statement on the Martin case:
I have sat back and allowed myself time to assess the current episode revealing itself in Sanford, Florida involving the shooting of 17-year-old Treyvon Martin. First of all, if all that has been reported is accurate, the Sanford Police Chief should be relieved of his duties due to what appears to be a mishandling of this shooting in its early stages. The US Navy SEALS identified Osama Bin Laden within hours, while this young man laid on a morgue slab for three days. The shooter, Mr Zimmerman, should have been held in custody and certainly should not be walking free, still having a concealed weapons carry permit.
From my reading, it seems this young man was pursued and there was no probable cause to engage him, certainly not pursue and shoot him….against the direction of the 911 responder. Let’s all be appalled at this instance not because of race, but because a young American man has lost his life, seemingly, for no reason. I have signed a letter supporting a DOJ investigation. I am not heading to Sanford to shout and scream, because we need the responsible entities and agencies to handle this situation from this point without media bias or undue political influences. This is an outrage.
And here is his condemnation of the New Black Panther bounty:
I vehemently condemn the bounty poster emanating from the New Black Panther Party putting a $10,000 ransom up for the capture of George Zimmerman and call upon the US Department of Justice to prosecute their actions, clearly a hate crime. We have seen this type of abhorrent behavior from this group previously in 2008 as part of a voter intimidation action, it is reprehensible. To openly solicit for the death of an American citizen, with reward, is not in keeping with the laws of due process which governs this Constitutional Republic. However, this is to be expected when irrational voices dominate our public dialogue and are fueled by an ideological driven media. I am concerned that that the tragic death of Trayvon Martin is being hijacked by malcontents.
Incidentally, the “New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense” is not officially related to the old Black Panther Party. The old Black Panther Party does not like the New Black Panther Party, and for that matter probably dislikes being referred to as “the Old Black Panther Party,” as it makes them sound like a shuffleboard team.
Back to Rep. West: he’s hardly the only person who questions the way this case was handled by the Sanford Police Department, although they are not without their legal and procedural defenses. Based on what we’ve now learned about the case, West was not helping matters by prematurely stating “there was no probable cause to engage him, certainly not pursue and shoot him….against the direction of the 911 responder,” although he was careful to qualify this as his personal impression, based on the same shoddy reporting we’ve all been reading. (Along those lines, Dan Riehl at Breitbart.com caught MSNBC deliberately doctoring quotes in a March 21 story to make Zimmerman out as a racist… in the early paragraphs of an article about his neighbors coming to his defense!)
Zimmerman’s actions may turn out to have been profoundly wrong, with obviously deadly consequences, but they were not random or utterly inexplicable. The Sanford Police Department did not dispatch Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane from the Dukes of Hazzard to giggle and wave Zimmerman along. These are important distinctions to make, and it doesn’t invalidate either legal proceedings against Zimmerman, substantive criticism of the police department, the imperative to investigate the matter fully, or an observer’s heartfelt conviction that the shooting was horrendous. If people are to be castigated, and placed in legal jeopardy, for their actions, it is important to remain clear about what those actions actually were. Such clarity has never been in plentiful supply with regard to the Sanford incident.
As for West’s condemnation of the NBPP bounty as a “hate crime,” well, isn’t it? Here is the Justice Department’s official definition:
Hate crime is the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, or disability. The purveyors of hate use explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence, and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims, leaving them vulnerable to more attacks and feeling alienated, helpless, suspicious and fearful.
Others may become frustrated and angry if they believe the local government and other groups in the community will not protect them. When perpetrators of hate are not prosecuted as criminals and their acts not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations.
There’s at least as much evidence that the NBPP is motivated by George Zimmerman’s “race or ethnicity” as that Zimmerman was motivated by Trayvon Martin’s. There is certainly reason to wonder if certain elements of the government are willing to protect Zimmerman from the New Black Panther Party and their bounty hunters, as neither Attorney General Eric Holder nor President Barack Obama has spoken up against them.
If the answer to West’s challenge is that “white Hispanics” like Zimmerman cannot be targeted by hate crimes, or that people like the New Black Panther Party are inherently incapable of committing them, let’s have that out on the table, and get it codified in statute. Let’s be clear that “hate crimes” are not matters of absolute justice, but rather political constructs – meaning that who commits them against whom is more important than what was actually said or done.