George Zimmerman has been arrested. And we have no one to thank for that but we, ourselves, the hundred-thousands, if not millions, of mainly African Americans who rallied all over this country with one aim: Justice for Trayvon Martin. And in this interim before the trial is set to begin, this time is not for retreating back to our normal lives. For what is “normal” is no more. The system has been exposed (once again) and if we are to fix what ails it and us in the process, then we would use this time wisely and plan for the battle ahead.
There are many lessons to be learned from what has already happened and hard facts that must be faced. One of the first is that the Special Prosecutor lied at the press conference where she announced that Zimmerman had been arrested and they were pursuing a trial. Throughout her statement she painted a portrait of the process that brought us here that was neither factual nor genuine. But her most egregious act of deception was when she chastised the movement for not allowing the police to proceed with their investigation.
She began her remarks in this manner: “We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida.” Later she stated “I can tell you that this investigation was underway by both the Sanford police department and Norm Wilfinger’s office. The investigation was in full mode and the governor appointed us less than three weeks ago and we took the work that they had done which was significant …” And finally, nearing the end of the press conference, she gave this response to a reporter’s question: “They [the Sanford police department] were a tremendous help to us. They did what the police do. Anytime where you have a shooting scene and there is a person whose death is caused, the police launch a thorough and intensive investigation. That was done here, but before the investigation could be finished, there was a lot of outcry about this case and then it changed course and we got appointed to take over the investigation. … We have numerous homicides where an immediate arrest is not made. So, to us, it did not seem unusual. Judgment is made when the final decision is reached. And that is what we would have hoped the public would have waited for. But some people did not wait (1).”
In her statement there is a clear attempt to protect and defend the Sanford police department. So much so, that she will even try to rewrite history to do so. The fact is that the Sanford police department concluded its investigation before the outcry and petitions began. On March 12, 2012, fifteen days after the murder of Trayvon Martin, then Sanford police chief Bill Lee stated during a televised press conference that “Mr Zimmerman has made the case of self-defense. Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him (2).” The following day, he would announce that there “was no evidence” to arrest Zimmerman and that the case was turned over to the State Attorney’s office (3). At this time there had not been one protest. The national media had not yet covered the case. The “public” did wait for the Sanford police to do its job and conclude its investigation. It did. And the conclusion it came to is what motivated the “public” to act. And in a matter of days the African American social network took up the case and forced it onto the national stage. Had the Black community not acted as we did, this case would still be closed and the family would be mourning alone in Florida as that state co-signed the murder of an unarmed Black young man.
How is she able to state that the Sanford police department launched “a thorough and intensive investigation”? The Sanford police department failed to even send a homicide detective to the scene of the crime. They sent a narcotics officer that did not even see fit to test Zimmerman, but took the time to test Trayvon Martin’s bloodied corpse. They take Zimmerman into custody and let him go that same night, supposedly accepting his testimony that Martin broke his nose. Imagine that: While he is giving his testimony at the station (claiming to have a broken nose) without any bruising on his face, the police are taking and accepting such bogus statements without challenge. This same department then allowed Zimmerman to leave with his gun – the murder weapon – the most crucial piece of evidence in the case. According to witnesses, the police manipulated their testimony to corroborate Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. A thorough and intensive investigation? Who is she fooling? This is a department that has had a history of mistreatment of cases involving African American victims, specifically in letting white assailants of Black victims walk. Chief Bill Lee has gone on record stating that he was hired within the past year to clean up the department and create a better relationship with the Black community. He has failed miserably on both counts. Although it is known that he has been removed from his post “temporarily,” what many may not know is that his final act as chief included the promotion of five officers. One of the officers he promoted is none other than the very sergeant that was on duty the night Trayvon was murdered, Randy Smith, who failed to initiate an investigation or make an arrest (4). The fact is that the department needs to be investigated and brought up on charges. Starting with Bill Lee, himself.
What this teaches us is that we need to be ever-vigilant as this case moves forward. Our history teaches us that the states of this country have not been our friend. The powers of the state and its offices have been used to keep us oppressed and rendered second-class citizens, if citizens at all. Whatever justice we have achieved has been achieved when we, ourselves, took matters in our own hands and demanded that our civil and human rights to be recognized and respected. This case is no different. We are talking about more than just the quest for justice for Trayvon Martin and his family. Yet, if that were the case, then the pursuit would still be worthy. What we are dealing with here is more than just a “Stand Your Ground” law aimed directly at our community. We are dealing with an attitude in this country that has no regard for the sanctity of a Black person’s life. This case is teaching us that we must fight on every front in order to secure what is rightfully ours: Life, itself.
If there is to be justice in this case – and there must be justice in this case – I put more faith in “some people” than the special prosecutor to see it secured.