By Scotty Reid, 4/1/2012, news, opinion
Edward Wyckoff Williams of The Root published an insightful article examining the different treatment by Sanford officials and others in the state of Florida of George Zimmerman and the New Black Panther Party members who offered a reward for the apprehension of Zimmerman with the intent to turn him over to federal authorities.
While the article is constructive in pointing out the apparent racism/white supremacy in the City of Sanford’s response to Zimmerman contrasted with the treatment of members of the Panthers, he should be more careful in his word choices.
Zimmerman, a white Hispanic male has been referred to by Williams and other members of the press as a vigilante. I myself made that same mistake once during a radio report on the story until it was pointed out to me that it was incorrect word usage. A vigilante is a private individual who dishes out punishment legally or illegally in response to a crime according to the Oxford dictionary. Trayvon Martin was not in the act of nor did he commit a crime by walking in the gated community where his father lives. Therefore, Zimmerman cannot be correctly referred to as a vigilante.
The New Black Panther Party issuing a reward for the apprehension of George Zimmerman is not an act of vigilantism. It is not uncommon for private citizens to offer rewards in connection to apprehending criminals or obtaining information leading to their arrest. It is possible that the reward, which is being described incorrectly as a bounty, may encourage acts of vigilantism by private citizens, which going by the Oxford definition, may not be illegal. As pointed out in an article on the website National Review, there is not much case law on citizen’s arrests in the state of Florida but offers up the following,
A private citizen does have the common law right to arrest a person who commits a felony in his presence, or to arrest a person where a felony has been committed, and where the arresting citizen has probable cause to believe, and does believe, the person arrested to be guilty. Even though there was time to obtain a warrant, a private citizen may make such an arrest and justify his failure to obtain a warrant by proving the person arrested was actually guilty of a felony.
The Sun Sentinel says you can make a citizen’s arrest in Florida but to be careful.
Florida is among many states that follows common law regarding citizen's arrest. You can detain someone, until police arrive, if you witness a felony or have reasonable belief someone committed a felony. You should tell a person if they are under arrest, but don't worry about reading them Miranda rights.
Two important points, though: Don't use more force than needed, and call police right away, said Elaine Cohen, associate dean at the Institute of Public Safety at Broward College.
There is a new report that two independent voice analyst experts analyzed the 911 calls of someone pleading for help and concluded that it was not Zimmerman pleading for help as he claimed. This leaves us to the conclusion that it was Trayvon Martin pleading for help before the fatal gunshot is heard on the call and the cries immediately stop. It is looking more and more probable that Zimmerman executed the teen in cold blood. Throw in the fact that he called Trayvon Martin a “f-ing coon” before stalking him as he was advised not to do by the 911 dispatcher, it is logical to conclude that George Michael Zimmerman committed a felony hate crime.
In order to prevent further loss of life, Zimmerman is still armed and dangerous, the New Black Panther Party members or others who might seek to execute a legal citizen’s arrest on Zimmerman based on probable cause to believe he committed a felony act against Trayvon Martin, it may be best for them to only locate Zimmerman and track his movements. If Zimmerman attempts to pull his weapon on anyone who watches him from a distance, then Florida does have “Stand Your Ground” legislation in place that if equally applied as they were to Zimmerman based on his false claims, would allow for deadly force in self-defense.
If anyone can properly be referred to as a vigilante, it would be Trayvon Martin. If he did indeed resist George Zimmerman's attempt to unlawfully detain him which is a crime in Florida, the same crime Sanford officials have warned the Panthers not to engage in, and he did indeed break Zimmerman’s nose and pound his head into the pavement causing an injury, he was only dishing out the punishment an armed assailant in the act of committing a crime against him deserved.
However, no forensic evidence has been presented to support Zimmerman’s claim that the two got into a life and death struggle. Recent video footage does not show a bloodied nose or blood on the clothing of Zimmerman that would result from such an injury. While the right wing website The Daily Caller attempted to Photoshop an image from the video, it is still not clear if Zimmerman suffered any injuries because of Trayvon Martin defending himself. The so-called new witness who said he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman hitting him, may actually be an accomplice. The funeral director who examined Martin’s body after it had been hidden in a Sanford morgue for three days, recently stated he saw no evidence that would indicate the teen had been in a fight.
Getting back to William’s main point in his article, it is evident that the Sanford official’s responses to Zimmerman’s crimes and the New Black Panther Party’s reward offer for a citizen’s arrest and the perceived threat to arrest them clearly shows a bias that can logically be presumed to be based in racism/white supremacy.