Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Zimmerman, Post-Verdict

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“There are factions, there are groups, there are people that would want to take the law into their own hands as they perceive it or be vigilantes in some sense,” said Robert Zimmerman.

“They will always present a threat to George and to his family.”

Ironic.

What has come to pass is tragic as it was predictable. Trayvon Martin’s Blackness trumped his age. Martin’s Blackness trumped his right to defend himself. Martin’s Blackness was to any watchful eye the crux in George Zimmerman’s decision-making that night. Zimmerman played the gun-slinging vigilante and was vindicated by a non-Black jury in a case where race was forbidden from being discussed. Thus, with Zimmerman’s acquittal, two precedents were set:

1) You can pick a fight and, if you are losing, you can end it with lethal force without fear of imprisonment.

2) #1 does not apply if you’re Black.

There are those who would argue that Martin was a little thug for whom this was, if not an inevitability, a likely and justified end. This supposition is fantastically off-target. Trayvon Martin had no criminal record, and the only trouble he’s gotten into was for minor marijuana possession in school, for which he was suspended. If that gives somebody a death sentence, or ranks them among criminals, then none of us are innocent and my career as a teacher was a quixotic endeavor at best. Of course, this is not the case and such characterization for want of better justification is likely born out of prejudice. Moreover, such a record is not only objectively minuscule, but is absolutely nothing in comparison to George Zimmerman, who has police records for battery, domestic violence, sexual assault, and – in the height of hypocrisy – violently resisting arrest from a real police officer.

There are those who would argue that Zimmerman, on account of being part Peruvian, did not act because of Martin’s race nor did he receive preferential treatment. Imagine, however, if Zimmerman were Black. He would not have gotten the same treatment from the police, who failed to do so much as charge him with a crime for 45 days. He would not have gotten the monetary support from right-wing individuals and organizations in order to afford his attorney. His attorney would not have been able to get a favorable jury that resembled him and not his victim and a judge willing to take the talk of race and vigilantism off the table. Furthermore, he would not have had a record of 46 calls to Sanford police exclusively reporting Black males: Simply put, he may not even have considered this teenager suspicious. Let’s face it: Zimmerman, an armed, self-appointed volunteer watch captain in a gated community, is about as Latino as McGloin was Irish in Gangs of New York.

Thanks to this verdict, it’s open season in Florida today: Evoking scenes from South Park, all you have to do before opening fire is declare that you feel threatened. I only wonder just whether Zimmerman is capable of understanding just what he has justified today, but maybe he’s just vainly hoping that he got the last shot in.

Zimmerman Pre-Verdict

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Years back when I was living in Flushing, Queens, there was a horrific armed robbery in a Wendy’s on Main Street. Gunmen corralled all seven employees attending at that time into the basement, put bags over their heads and shot each one from behind.

Two survived, and one was able to describe their vehicle to the police, who immediately put up an all-hands dragnet in the entire area, complete with roadblocks and checkpoints. The news was all over the event, flabbergasted over the egregious death toll in contrast to the modest amount of money taken. Why so much bloodshed?

The answer was simple: Leave no witnesses that could identify them.

George Zimmerman followed, cornered, fought and killed an unarmed Black teenager, and while the jury is currently deliberating, I suspect they will not convict him of the charge of second degree murder but of a lesser charge of manslaughter – perhaps even involuntary manslaughter – due to lack of evidence.

The main evidence, of course, would have been the testimony of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead, leaving nobody to dispute Zimmerman’s account of that night. I’ve observed earlier that previous uses of the Stand Your Ground law in Florida followed a trend of gang members and barroom brawlers using it to justify their murders, and that acquittals were largely due to lack of contravening evidence.

Needless to say, this case, while being one of racial profiling and violent vigilantism, is also one of legalized lawlessness: It grants carte blanche to premeditated murders, so long as there are no witnesses. As there is no need to flee and there is no possible means of accurately assessing whether one feels threatened, it becomes child’s play to get away with murder.

The longer it takes for a verdict to arrive, the more likely the jury – with not one Black juror – will convict Zimmerman of a lesser charge or acquit him altogether. I would not want to be in Florida should that happen, but ever since this law was passed, I didn’t want to be in Florida anyway.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

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I suppose I can’t resent my compatriots when they go on about how disappointing Obama’s vacillations are when it comes to the economy and health care and our foreign wars and blah de blah when all it takes to win them back is saying exactly what needs to be said when it needs to be said.

Quote Obama, “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.

Trayvon Martin, a unarmed Black teenager, was walking to his father’s girlfriend’s house from a nearby convenience store when he was shot dead on the street by George Zimmerman, a white volunteer for the neighborhood watch. Zimmerman claimed self defense, and police did not charge him because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which establishes that, in any public area, the person claiming self defense in his use of lethal force need not try to escape the confrontation first.

According to the 911 transcript, Zimmerman said that the kid “looked like he was up to no good, or on drugs” and described his activity as “walking about, looking at houses.” Just about the only description of Trayvon’s appearance offered was that he had his hoodie up, as it was raining. The 911 operator told him to stay in his car, which he ignored to accost him, chase him down when Trayvon ran, and shoot him.

Trayvon was on his cell phone with his girlfriend when Zimmerman accosted him, and according to those transcripts, Trayvon stated he was being followed, and his girlfriend advised him to run. Later, he asked Zimmerman, “Why are you following me?” to which Zimmerman said, “What are you doing around here?” At that point the cell phone was dropped, which implies the Zimmerman had initiated a physical altercation.

Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law in 2005 and had noted that the number of “justified killings” have increased by 36 every year since. Effectively, beyond the license to vigilantism it grants, it also grants the right to escalate any altercation to deadly force, with the ‘victor,’ so to speak, able to claim self defense without counterclaim. State Attorney Willie Meggs pointed out that gang members, for instance, call 911 after shootings with other gang members to claim self defense.

To call the event ‘racially charged’ is patently obvious, and the parallels I’m immediately reminded of are the situation that eventually led to the 1992 Crown Heights riot, where-in posses of Jewish vigilantes under the organization ‘Shmira’ would accost and often beat the Black denizens of the neighborhood as proactive ‘defense’ of their neighborhood. It helped fostered a culture of distrust that allowed a single event to light the tinderbox, and speaks to why vigilantism is and should be viewed with suspicion.

Seriously Wrong

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Sitting at home during mandatory furlough day.

Watching First Blood on AMC. Commercial comes up: “Worried about the problem of oil on the beaches in the Gulf? Then vacation in Florida! Our beaches are clean!”

This is what the state government spends its money on?

It means a lot when First Blood is the least stupid thing on the channel.

Broken Record

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No sooner have I written a rant on bike lanes that I’ve gotten an example to go along with it: Biking to work, my route brought me along those bike lanes separated from traffic by rows of parking – Broadway from 42nd to 34th, Grand St from Broadway to Bowery – giving me the choice from doing what I think is best – running with traffic – to doing what I’m supposed to – running on the bike lane. Read the rest of this entry »

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