We must dismantle the fraternity of racism and build an altar of love and justice, writes the pastor of Obama’s former church.
Enhanced images show bump or mark on head.
The conflicting reports of what happened the night George Zimmmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin continue to pick up their respective evidence. The latest piece of the puzzle is enhanced surveillance footage of the police station where Zimmerman was taken afterward, which now appears to show a possible gash or injury on the back of his head. The footage was originally touted as showing the opposite. Both the video footage and the audio of Zimmerman’s 911 call have been intensely debated, and both sides have claimed them as evidence for their account of the shooting.
If he is charged in shooting.
George Zimmerman says he is ready to turn himself in if he is charged in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a decision authorities say will come “soon.” The special prosecutor in the case, reviewing whether Zimmerman truly acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed Martin, said she will decide shortly whether or not to file charges. Zimmerman’s lawyer said his client will not run from the law, and that they are already preparing for a trial.
Two unarmed black youths. Two deaths. But former police chief Bill Bratton thinks the similarities may end there.
Is another Trayvon Martin case brewing in Pasadena, Calif.?
There are troubling similarities between the shooting death of Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old college student who was killed in the Southern California city on March 24, and that of Martin, a 17-year-old high-school kid who died a month earlier in Sanford, Fla. Both were African-American and both were unarmed. The shooters in each case were nonblack (Caucasian in McDade’s case and Hispanic in Martin’s). In the aftermath of the deaths, members of the public, especially civil-rights activists, are alarmed and angry.
But Bill Bratton, the former top cop of neighboring Los Angeles and, before that, of New York City, says significant differences between the two incidents—especially the proactive response of Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez to community concerns—have thus far prevented the sort of boiling outrage that has characterized the Florida case.
“It is a very big local story, and whether it has any legs on the national level is up to the media and responsible community leaders,” Bratton told me about the Pasadena situation. “So far, Trayvon Martin is sucking up all the oxygen.”
In contrast to “an almost total lack of visibility” by Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee in the two weeks following the Martin shooting, Bratton praised Chief Sanchez’s attempts to engage the public and field tough questions about McDade’s death, most recently at an encouragingly calm community meeting on Saturday. “It’s an advantage to get out in front of it,” Bratton said, “and show that the police department is not trying to hide anything.”
Amid widespread outrage over his mishandling of the public-relations component, Lee was forced to step aside from the Sanford police department.
The underlying facts of the two incidents, while murky, are dissimilar in important aspects: Martin, who was walking home through a gated community after buying candy and iced tea, was shot by a self-appointed civilian crime-stopper who disregarded a police dispatcher’s directive not to pursue the teenager. The shooter, George Zimmerman, has yet to be charged with any crime. Bratton, however, doesn’t necessarily fault Chief Lee for not arresting Zimmerman immediately, noting that he apparently was relying on legal advice from the local prosecutor.
Focuses on civil-rights issues.
A “parallel investigation” into the Trayvon Martin case being conducted by the FBI is examining whether or not the shooting was racially motivated. A special prosecutor for the state of Florida is also currently looking into Martin’s case, as is the Justice Department. A law enforcement official told reporters that the record of 911 calls made by shooter George Zimmerman may provide critical evidence of a pattern of racial profiling in the months leading up to Martin’s shooting. Craig Sonner, Zimmerman’s lawyer, has adamantly denied that his client’s actions were motivated by race.
Reconstruction of the night yields poignant details.
The cries for help heard in the background of a 911 call from the night of Trayvon Martin’s shooting are not George Zimmerman’s, experts said Sunday. The experts said that the tests would be admissible in court, and that similar tests had recently been allowed into evidence in a murder trial. Screams and a single handgun report are heard in the recording. It's unclear whehter the screams are from Trayvon Martin. Meanwhile, a second ambulance, possibly for Zimmerman, was cancelled on the night of the shooting. As details from the shooting continue to come to light, a New York Times reconstruction of the night gives nuance to the events leading up to Martin and Zimmerman's fatal encounter.
At Miami demonstration that draws hundreds.
Hundreds of protesters took to a Miami park on Sunday afternoon calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the singer Chaka Khan were among the high-profile individuals who turned out for the march, which included Trayvon’s parents. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents Travyon’s home district, organized the march. Bayfront Park, a popular Miami destination, hosted the march, which was a "welcome home" of sorts for Trayvon’s parents after they spent time lobbying in D.C.
Say Zimmerman not the one crying for help.
According to an investigation by The Orlando Sentinel, two experts in the field of forensic voice identification say it was not George Zimmerman who was heard calling for help on a 911 call in the moments before Florida teen Trayvon Martin was shot. Forensic consultant Tom Owen used voice identification software to rule out Zimmerman, and another expert, Ed Primeau, utilized audio enhancement and human analysis to come to the same conclusion. “I believe that’s Trayvon Martin in the background, without a doubt,” Primeau said. “That’s a young man screaming.”
Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, which allows citizens broad power to use deadly force, is under attack in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. From laws that keep certain voters away from the polls to others that forbid sex acts between married couples, read about the craziest statues on the state’s books.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has received national attention in the wake of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. The law removes the traditional common law duty to retreat when threatened in public and allows someone threatened to respond immediately with lethal force if it is believed “necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.”
Mario Tama / Getty Images
It is still unclear precisely what happened immediately prior to the moment when Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmermann, a member of the local neighborhood watch. What is clear that the Stand Your Ground law has served as a successful obstacle to prosecutors bringing any charges against Zimmermann. But looking at Florida’s statute books, Stand Your Ground, which the state passed in 2005, isn’t the only law that it might be worthwhile for the state legislature to re-examine.
Drug Testing Welfare Recipients
In an attempt to save money, the Florida legislature passed a bill last year that required all welfare recipients to be drug tested. The law required welfare recipients to pay in advance for their drug test with a refund promised if they proved to be drug free. Those who fail are ineligible to receive government aid for a year. However, the law has since been blocked as unconstitutional in federal court. But not only that, because of the expense and inconvenience, it ended up costing more money that it saved as only a few of those on government assistance have tested positive for drug use.
Living in Sin In The Sunshine State
Many young couples live together without being married. In most places, that’s normal. In Florida, that’s illegal. Section 2 of Chapter 798 of Title XLVI of the Florida Code prohibits “any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associat[ing] and cohabit[ing] together.” However, even getting married may not get Floridians off the hook if they have more exotic tastes in the bedroom. The statute also prohibits all state residents, regardless of martial status, from “engag[ing] in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior.” It seems clear that once you get south of Georgia, it’s safer to be a prude than lewd.
The Trayvon Martin case is still unraveling, but across the country another shooting of a young, unarmed black teenager is already shaking California. Christine Pelisek reports.
As the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin roils the nation, residents of Pasadena, Calif., are trying to come to grips with their own needless death. It involves another youth who, in this instance, was shot by the Pasadena Police Department after they received a 911 call about an armed robbery on March 24. Kendrec McDade’s death took an even more tragic turn when, in the aftermath of the shooting, the police learned that the 911 caller had lied about 19-year-old McDade having a gun.
Family members mourn Kendrec McDade—a 19-year-old Citrus College student shot by police—at a memorial in Pasadena on March 29. (Damian Dovarganes / AP)
The case has drawn parallels to the Martin case because both of the dead teenagers were black and unarmed. “They were young black men who are, when the situation comes up, targets of violence,” says Earl Ofari Hutchinson, the president of the Los Angeles Urban Police Roundtable. But that is where the similarity ends, argues Lt. Phlunte Riddle of the Pasadena P.D. Self-appointed neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot Martin as he was walking home, whereas McDade and his juvenile accomplice allegedly attempted to break into a cash register at a restaurant prior to stealing a backpack and computer from a parked car, said Riddle. McDade acted as a “lookout” during the alleged burglary, according to Riddle.
“This wasn’t any type of profile, looking for someone of color,” she said. “This was a response to an armed robbery that had just occurred with a full description. That is significantly different than the Florida case. The officers are extremely upset. They believed their lives were in danger.”
The shooting of McDade has opened long-festering wounds in northwest Pasadena, where a majority of African-Americans say they have a bad relationship with police. Although Pasadena is known as a place with pockets of extreme wealth and the home of the Rose Bowl, northwest Pasadena is a neighborhood plagued by violence and poverty. There have been four shootings in the small community in the last year alone.
In a 2006 survey conducted by the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), African-Americans living in northwest Pasadena said members of the Pasadena Police Department unjustly targeted them.
Officer-involved-shooting fatalities in northwest Pasadena are relatively rare, however. The last fatality occurred in 2009, when 37-year-old reputed Blood gang member Leroy Barnes was shot by officers 11 times—with seven of those rounds hitting him in the back—after a routine traffic stop. Barnes’s shooting was looked into by the County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review, which questioned the tactical decisions made by the two officers involved in the shooting. The committee recommended better training of officers and better communication with the community. In 2010, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office concluded that the shooting by the officers was “lawful self-defense.”
As conflicting details of McDade’s death continue to trickle out, tensions are beginning to mount. Community members have criticized the police department for not keeping the neighborhood abreast of the police investigation, and questioned whether the shooting was justified. “The community is ready to go up in smoke,” said neighborhood activist William Greer. “The police department’s job is to serve and protect. They just can’t go around shooting people. It is the wild wild west here in northwest Pasadena.”
Racism isn't the sole reason some people are painting Trayvon Martin as a thug. Jesse Singal on the psychological quirks that perpetuate rumors and twist facts in difficult cases.
How can we explain the startling ferocity of the efforts to portray Trayvon Martin as a thug? As investigators continue to sort out why self-appointed neighborhood-watch captain George Zimmerman shot and killed the Florida teen last month, it’s hard not to become distraught at the extent to which a dead young man’s reputation has been gleefully dragged through the mud by so many people.
Trayvon Martin supporters at a rally last week in Sanford, Fla. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Any comment on the Martin case must be prefaced, of course, by the acknowledgment that we’re still operating with a real deficit of information here. Other than the video and audio recordings we’ve seen and heard, everything else is rampant speculation. But the rumors themselves are still worth examining because of what they can tell us about how the human mind works during a major news event.
It’s easy to focus on the nasty racial components, which are hard to deny. There has been a concerted online campaign to portray Martin as a “thug” despite a complete lack of evidence that he ever engaged in any sort of violence. Pundits and commentators are focusing on his appearance, his style of dress, and the stupid, very teenage things he said on his Twitter account. If they didn’t think these irrelevant details implied that Martin’s own actions contributed to his death, they wouldn’t be so intently focused on propagating them.
But while race is undeniably a factor in the power of the rumors, it’s not the only one, and the connection between race-related feelings and rumor-mongering is more complicated than it appears at first glance. If we’re actually going to understand why the Martin rumors exploded, we’re going to need some more-nuanced explanations.
Psychology is our friend here. Since rumors are such an important part of human life, from the boardroom to counterinsurgency efforts, psychologists have been studying for decades how they spread and what can be done to slow them down when they are false. They’ve also devoted a great deal of research to the proximal question of which pieces of information are most likely to stick out in our minds—the things we’re most likely to pass on to a friend.
One key factor here is the overwhelming lack of concrete information about what happened in the moments immediately before Zimmerman killed Martin. This makes the story inherently vulnerable to rumors, according to Rochester Institute of Technology psychologist Nick DiFonzo, an expert on rumor research and the author of The Watercooler Effect: A Psychologist Explores the Extraordinary Power of Rumors. “Whenever there’s a little bit of uncertainty and it doesn’t seem to make sense, people get very surprised when they hear this story, and they’re wondering, ‘Well, what? What happened? Why did it happen? That’s crazy,’ ” he said. “They’ll try to fill it in with rumors, speculation.”
We are inherently bothered by an incomplete story. When we see holes in a narrative, we do whatever we can to plug them with the tools we have at hand. Rumors are an excellent solution, because they can be shaped to fit any gap that we come across. "It’s hard to stay in an ambiguous mode and accept uncertainty," DiFonzo says. The more clear-cut a given story, the less likely it is to spawn rumors. “If people will supply some harder facts, it’s harder to wiggle,” he adds. “You have to wiggle around the new facts.” In the Martin case, there is an enormity of wiggle room.
For killing of Trayvon Martin.
Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson joined thousands of protesters in a march through Sanford, Fla., on Saturday to demand the arrest of George Zimmerman. “We want arrests, shot in the chest,” the protesters shouted. Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, which organized the march, said, “We’re here to say, ‘Save our sons.’ Bring Mr. Zimmerman to justice.”
Piers Morgan's rant on Friday against African-American writer and commentator Touré made the CNN host look tone deaf. Allison Samuels on how the network lost the war of public opinion.
On Friday night, in lieu of an invitation to see The Hunger Games, I chose to stay home and watch a much more entertaining event: the CNN news cycle. In a rather unfortunate spectacle, the network’s oft-combative host Piers Morgan attempted to take to task African-American journalist Touré for some critical remarks the writer, author, and social commentator expressed about Morgan via his Twitter account earlier in the week. It seems that Touré was none too pleased that Morgan chose to interview Robert Zimmerman Jr., the brother of George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, because, according to Touré, he allowed the sibling to “spout unchallenged lies further poisoning a tense moment in history. Be Professional,” Touré chastised.
Fighting words indeed, resulting in an intense, no-holds-barred Twitter war began between the two. Morgan offered a rather curious and personal response to Touré, tweeting: “Oh Touré, you’re such a tedious little twerp,” while also mocking the writer’s 57,000 followers. Mark my words: Twitter is destined to doom us all one day—just ask Spike Lee.
As childish as those one-liners were from Morgan, someone who you would assume would have developed a much thicker skin after years as a journalist here and abroad, the onetime Rupert Murdoch employee decided to really lay down the gauntlet by challenging Touré, a regular MSNBC contributor, to a verbal duel on air. After much back and forth on the where and the when, the exchange was set for Friday night, and it was without a doubt one of the most painful moments I’ve watched on primetime TV in a good while. In true Touré style, the take-no-prisoners commentator went straight for the jugular and attacked Morgan face to face for not questioning Zimmerman about his comments regarding important moments of the night Trayvon Martin died. Of course, Morgan was having none of it and quickly became defensive, chiding Touré for MSNBC’s attempt to get Zimmerman Jr. on their network as well, and for the network’s running the interview in question all day without criticism. What either one of those points had to do with Touré’s opinion expressed on his personal Twitter account is beyond my basic understanding.
But what was really disturbing about the more-than-20-minute showdown was the relative ease Morgan took in dismissing the African-American writer’s long and well-documented journalism background. Yes, Touré suggested that Morgan be professional in his initial tweet, but Morgan crossed the line by insinuating that Touré wasn’t a real journalist at all and by offering him tips on how real journalists do their jobs. That displayed a level of arrogance by Morgan that was completely uncalled for.
Those quips seemed to be all Morgan had in response to Touré’s suggestion that he didn’t fully appreciate the historical situation at hand. The writer even painfully added that after only being in the United States for seven years, Morgan could have no clue as to how deep the black-white divide actually is in this country. A fair point on many levels. The trials of blacks in Europe are based on a different set of circumstances, though the attitudes toward race and history’s consequences may be the same. African-Americans are the only group of once-enslaved people who continued to live in the area where their ancestors were held in shackles.
That creates a unique and tense dynamic for this country that is too often dismissed and misunderstood. But even more to the point, if Touré were not a serious journalist, why have him on the show in the first place? Why be so offended by a nonjournalist’s criticism when Twitter is full of such negative critiques aimed daily at the work of everyone from Don Cheadle to Lady Gaga. Jamal1 and Ray Ray23# had the same thoughts as Touré, so why not have them on for a heartfelt chat? Or better yet, debate my 78-year-old Aunt Josephine in Macon, Ga., who was also in complete agreement with Touré but just didn’t have a Twitter account to express it. (I’m setting her up with one next week.) How Aunt Josephine would relish the chance to put on her signature red lipstick and red “Sunday go-to-meeting hat” to go a round or two with Morgan on air. That would surely cement her star status as the toast of the Macon County church missionary club for years to come.
Touré (Johnny Nunez / WireImage-Getty Images)
While NAACP joins Sanford march.
Trayvon Martin’s brother, Jahvaris Fulton, said on Saturday that George Zimmerman’s claim that he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense is “baffling.” “It’s baffling how people, they just take his word for it, as if that’s exactly what happened,” Fulton said on CBS This Morning. Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman Jr., said on Thursday that his son had acted in self-defense, but the funeral director who prepared Martin’s body said there were no bruises on his body. Meanwhile, the NAACP joined protesters in Sanford, Fla., in a march to police headquarters on Saturday, demanding Zimmerman be arrested.
Former co-workers: Zimmerman fired for being 'aggressive.'
The funeral director who prepared Trayvon Martin’s body said Friday there was “no physical signs like there had been a scuffle” on the teenager—a key part of George Zimmerman’s claim that he shot and killed Trayvon in self-defense. “The hands—I didn’t see any knuckles, bruises or what have you,” said Richard Kurtz. Recently released surveillance footage shows that Zimmerman was unharmed 40 minutes after Trayvon’s death. Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reported that Zimmerman was fired from a job as a security guard because he was "too aggressive."
Residents and authorities fear angry and frustrated citizens may explode into the streets as more conflicting information about Trayvon Martin’s slaying surfaces and the investigation drags on without an arrest.
Lucy Mims doesn’t want to see any more trouble in her hometown of Sanford, Florida. The white, 75-year-old former nursing assistant and midwife has lived many peaceful years in her quaint three-bedroom home in the small city some 50 miles outside Orlando. That all changed four weeks ago, when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch leader just 20 minutes from Mims’ s home. As conflicting details of the teenager’s murder continues to trickle out, Mims is worried that the lid is may soon blow off the simmering pot that Sanford now is.
A woman shouts as she joins the nationwide protest in memory of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin on March 26, 2012 in downtown of Los Angeles, California. Protesters were marking the one-month anniversary since the killing of an unarmed black Florida teenager which has sparked a national uproar and re-opened wounds over US racial tensions. (Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images)
“Every day something comes out worse than the day before,’’ says Mims. “At first you didn’t know what to believe because it never sounded right. But now it seems like that Zimmerman did shoot that boy in cold blood for no reason and just lied about it.’’
News footage of a seemingly unharmed George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch leader who shot the unarmed teenager as he walked home with Skittles and ice tea flooded the Internet and major news shows on Wednesday. In the aftermath of the shooting, Zimmerman claimed self-defense and told police that a beating by Martin left him with a broken nose and serious bruises to the back of his head. Images of Zimmerman just 30 minutes after the shooting showed few if any injuries as he was walked without assistance into the Sanford police station.
Though Pamela Bondi, the special Florida prosecutor appointed to oversee the Martin case has asked the city for patience, growing evidence contradicting Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense now has some worried that the measured calm across Sanford won’t last much longer.
The city has seen its share controversial racial incidents. In 2010 the son of a Sanford lieutenant was caught on tape beating a homeless black man but wasn’t arrested until the tape began airing on local televisions stations a month later.
“I get a little angrier every time I read or hear something about that kid,’’ says 24-year-old Travis James, an African-American auto repairman. “ To me this city doesn’t care about black people and then I heard Zimmerman’s dad talking about how the president and all the black people are filled with hate. What was his son filled with that night? We always have to be the bigger people and keep our calm and do the right thing. I get tired of that.’’
George Zimmerman’s father, Robert, a former judge, told a local Florida news station that President Obama, organizations like the NAACP, and many others have expressed intense hate towards his son for weeks. President Obama told reporters, “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon,’’ when asked about the incident last week.
“We understand from a father’s stand point that he’s trying to protect and support his son,’’ said Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump. “Just like Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin would have liked to have done for their son Trayvon on the night he died. But people aren’t blind. They heard the 911 calls and they saw the video that disputes everything his son has said. His son needs to be arrested.’’
Sources inside the Sanford Police Department say they are well aware of the potential for social unrest and of growing anger due not arresting Zimmerman. As a result, the source says, extra patrols have been on standby for weeks, and neighboring cities have been alerted in the event assistance is needed.
‘This city has been heading down this path for a while,’’ said a well-placed source in the police department. “They didn’t understand how this case would blow up, but they should have. Tempers have been up in the air since the black homeless man incident a few years ago. That kind of thing can only happen a few times before people lose it.’’
Neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman said he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed.
The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin has a whole new set of problems after the court found out he lied at his bond hearing, writes Mansfield Frazier.
George Zimmerman took the stand during his bond hearing Friday, issuing a statement to the Martin family. ‘I’m sorry for the loss of your son,’ he told the court before answering a series of questions about the case.
Chaz Guest captures the Trayvon Martin tragedy. He talks about honoring Martin's legacy.
Conservatives are using the teenager’s tweets, hoodie, and school suspension to blame him for his own death—and to show that racism was not a factor, says Michelle Goldberg.
George Zimmerman, the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, aspired to enter law enforcement.