Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The tragic shooting of an unarmed teenage boy on a rainy night in Sanford, Florida

Trayvon Martin parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin
Family of Marine veteran Kenneth Chamberlain
**I originally posted this blog April 1, 2012

Sometimes you have to exploit a high profile case to get justice for cases that are largely ignored by the media. It's common knowledge the media are not interested in the shooting deaths of Black males; the kidnappings, rapes and murders of Black children; the murders and rapes of Black women. The same "we are not interested rule applies to Hispanics and "others." Only White women are important and newsworthy to the major media. The prettier the white female victim, the more aggressive the coverage. Nonetheless, White children and men receive more attention than minorities.

The media, politicians and pundits, especially Fox mouthpieces, are stepping all over each other, rushing to voice their opinions about the sudden awakening in Black communities in the aftermath of  the shooting death of an unarmed 17-year-old African American male. The media are suggesting that Black people  stop protesting and let justice take its course in the shooting death of Travon Benjamin Martin who was shot killed by an adult named George Zimmerman, 29, in Sanford, Florida.

The media, bloggers and pundits are accusing Rev. Al Sharpton, the NAACP and other Black leaders of stirring up racial animosity, putting innocent people in danger. Siding with Zimmerman, the critics espouse that Trayvon was apparently behaving  "suspiciously", the reason he drew Zimmerman's attention. Critics have readily accepted and believe the shooter's version of what happened. Trayvon must have done something wrong, otherwise, he would be alive today. Trayvon and Zimmerman are the only witnesses; one is dead and the other is fighting to st ay out of prison.

The next step in this tragedy is to dehumanize the 17-year-old,  a common tactic used by the media and police departments. The media complex desperately wants Martin to be a high school dropout, a gang banger, a two-bit hoodlum with an arm-length record of arrests and convictions. This would make the story easier to write. The media want his death to be irrelevant and counted as a statistic. The media want Trayvon Martin to come from a single parent home, an absent father who is in prison or jobless or on drugs and incapable supporting his son financially and emotionally. The media want Martin's mother to have several  children out of wedlock by different men, totally negligent in her parental duties, and a long time welfare recipient on crack. 

Trayvon Martin does not fit the stereotype. He has two loving parents, neither of whom converse in slang or Ebonics. They are middle class and intelligent. The media are unhappy with that. Knowing that Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton are divorced is not sensational enough to bother with. No scandal there. So the next step was to search Trayvon's social accounts in search of reportable news to prove that he was a gang banger and street thug. They learned nothing that set him aside from other teenagers who boast, brag and tell all of their business on Facebook and Twitter.

As we all now know the head of  Madam Justice was twisted backwards in Stanford, Florida February 26, 2012. Someone told her that she should hear no evil, see no evil. And the person who took Trayvon Martin’s life that rainy night was set free. The police chief saw no evil, heard no evil in George Zimmerman's actions, who is free as a bird to flee to another country. Zimmerman, the "White Hispanic" is free to make choices.  The dead teenager, Trayvon Martin, an African American, can no longer make choices. He is only free to lay silent and lifeless in a cold grave. His parents can no longer caress him. See his smile. Listen to him talk. However, Trayvon's thousands of supporters of all hues, along with his grieving parents, are crying out for him. They are demanding that real justice be done.

Zimmerman was not arrested after killing Trayvon due to Florida's free-to-kill law officially called Stand Your Ground. Gun lovers and the NRA applauded Zimmerman for standing his ground. The unarmed teenager did not get a chance to stand his ground. The mortician who prepared Trayvon's body for burial said there were no tale-tale injuries or scars on Trayvon's body or hands to indicate that he had been in a life-and-death struggle with Zimmerman. He had a single shot to the heart.

Al Sharpton, MSNBC host of Politics Nation, and civil right activists understands that drawing attention to a case like this can lead to judicial re-examination, and reopening of similar shootings that have gone unnoticed by the media. There are hundreds of these files stored in cold case files across America. The number is increasing every day. One example is the police shooting death of former Marine Kenneth Chamberlain, November 19, 2011. The story's headline reads: Racially Motivated Killing the Media Missed? NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shooting Dead of 68 Year Old Black Veteran.

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now writes in AlterNet, March 29: “As the shooting death of Trayvon Martin continues to draw national attention, today we look at another controversial shooting of an African-American male that has received far less scrutiny. On the morning of November 19th, a 68-year-old former Marine named Kenneth Chamberlain, with a heart condition, accidentally pressed the button on his medical alert system while sleeping. Responding to the alert, police officers from the city of White Plains, New York arrived at Chamberlain’s apartment in a public housing complex shortly after 5 a.m. By the time the police left the apartment Kenneth Chamberlain was dead, shot twice in the chest by a police officer inside his home. 

"Police gained entry to Chamberlain’s apartment only after they took his front door off its hinges. Officers first shot him with a taser, then a beanbag shotgun, and then with live ammunition. Several months after his death, the name of the officer who killed Kenneth Chamberlain has yet to be released. The DA has vowed to convene a grand jury to determine if any of the officers should face charges,” writes Gonzalez and Goodman.

Another example among the many that stories that I found is an article by Earl Ofari Hutchinson that appeared March 30 in The Grio. He write about the shooting death of 19 year-old Kendrec McDade in Pasadena, CA. 

“The two Pasadena police officers who shot and killed 19-year-old Kendrec McDade Saturday night did not have their patrol car lights or sirens on when they approached the unarmed teenager. Police were responding to an armed robbery call that turned out to be false. The 911 caller, 26-year-old Oscar Felipe Carrillo, admitted to police that he lied about two suspects having a gun. He has been arrested and is awaiting potential charges of involuntary manslaughter.

“Pasadena police spokesperson Phlanté Riddle said the department does not allow officers to turn on patrol car lights or sirens if the emergency has no imminent danger. Carrillo told the dispatcher two African-American men pointed a gun at him and stole his backpack," writes Hutchinson.

Another related story in Pasadena Star News, March 27, written by Brian Charles, revealed that, “The lawyer for slain teenager Kendrec McDade's family on Tuesday described the shooting of the former Azusa High School football standout as a drive-by conducted by a member of the Pasadena Police Department.

"Attorney Caree Harper said an unidentified officer rolled down the window of his patrol car and fired at least one shot at the 19-year-old, while a second officer chasing on foot opened fire as well. The volley of as many as 10 shots killed McDade. Both officers said McDade was grabbing at his waistband, which led them to believe he was reaching for a weapon. The officers believed McDade to be a suspect in an armed robbery.”

McDade was unarmed. He was innocent. He was African American.

Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman quickly resorted to the excuses made by police officers when they shot and kill black males:

(a) I feared for my life.
(b) I thought he was reaching for a weapon.
(c) He reached for something in his waistband. 
(d) I saw something in his hand.

These hackneyed excuses have worked well  for police officers for decades. Zimmerman reached into the same old grab bag and pulled them out to justify his murderous rage against Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin was talking on his cell phone to a female friend at the time Zimmerman stalked him. You know. . . the cloak and dagger stuff  you see in the movies and on TV. Martin had gone to a nearby 7-Eleven during an NBA halftime to buy a package of  Skittles and a can Arizona Ice Tea. He did not return to the complex running, looking over his  shoulders, searching for a hiding place. No police was not chasing him. He had not committed a crime. He had not robbed the 7-Eleven. Notwithstanding, armed with these "dangerous" items on his person: Skittles, a can of tea, a cell phone, and wearing a hoodie made this youngster look like a threat to society, a gang banger, who was out on a rainy night scouting apartments and cars to burglarize.

Without evidence or a personal knowledge of Martin's history, Zimmerman knew immediately that this Black teenage male "looks like he's on drugs or something", and “up to no good.” By God! Wannabe cop Zimmerman was going to eradicate this gated neighborhood of these Black thugs and criminals! After all, he said, "These assholes always get away!" 

Miami Herald reporter Frances Robles, in a news story titled Shooter of Trayvon Martin habitual caller to cops,  wrote that  Zimmerman cooperated with the police on the night o f the shooting, relaying his side of the story. It was decided there was no probable cause to arrest him. As noted in a recent video of him getting out of a police patrol car, Zimmerman was clearly handcuffed.  Everyone assumed that he had been arrested, as the lead investigator suggested. 

Robles writes: "On at least two prior occasions, the Stanford Police Department was accused of turning their heads when  officers  are involved in violent encounters with blacks. In 2010 police waited seven weeks to arrest a lieutenant's son who was caught on video sucker-punching a homeless black man."

As we all have heard, the police dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow Martin. "We don't need you to do that" he was told. The dispatcher said she was sending an officer. Zimmerman disregarded her suggestion. He wanted to be the cop on the beat.  Hell, he could not allow this young Black criminal to get away! Not this time! Not under his watch!

According to Robles, "Police volunteer program coordinator Wendy Dorival said she met Zimmerman in September at a community neighborhood watch presentation.

“I said, ‘If it’s someone you don’t recognize, call us. We’ll figure it out,"' Dorival said. 
She told those in attendance to “Observe from a safe location. There’s even a slide about not being a vigilante police. I don’t know how many more times I can repeat it.”

"Police Chief Bill Lee said that although police do not encourage watch program volunteers to carry weapons, he recognizes a citizen’s constitutional right to do so."

For the critics who are asking where was Rev. Sharpton in the other police shootings, I think they should ask themselves: "Where were we?" It is easy to quarterback and throw stones while sitting in the safety of their living rooms, watching these horrific events dramatized in living color on national TV. Sharpton cannot be everywhere.

The Grio also wrote a piece on McDade. “. . .the other is Kendrec McDade. He was also a Black teen, a former high school football star at Azusa High School in a suburb of Los Angeles, and had no criminal record. When the dust settled, McDade also lay dead.

“In his case, he was slain by Pasadena, California police officers. McDade, like Martin, was unarmed. Police, acting on a bogus tip about a robbery, allegedly confronted McDade and a friend on March 24th, and then opened fire when they claimed they saw him reach for something in his pants.

“The shooting happened at night. Police claimed a surveillance videotape showed McDade as a 'lookout' in a petty theft attempt, but refused demands to produce the tape. Police and city officials, the NAACP and the California Legislative Black Caucus branded the shooting a tragedy, and official's promised an independent investigation. However, as with Trayvon Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, Pasadena police did not say what action, if any, they took against the officers that killed McDade."
"Am I next?" A simple but profound question.
George Zimmerman
Trayvon Martin
Kendrec McDade

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