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OP-ED: One Million Call for Federal Charges Against Zimmerman

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One Million Call for Federal Charges Against Zimmerman

By Benjamin Todd Jealous

One million people.

As of Tuesday morning, one million people have signed an NAACP petition asking the Department of Justice to pursue federal and civil rights charges against George Zimmerman after he was founded not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin.

 

 

 

 

 

I knew I was not alone in my outrage, anger, and heartbreak over this decision. When a teenager’s life is taken, and there is no accountability for the man who killed him, nothing seems right in the world.

But we cannot let these emotions rule us. Instead, in these most challenging of times, we are called to act. That begins with the pursuit of justice for Trayvon Martin, and it continues with a comprehensive campaign to fight the underlying problems factors that led to his death.

The first step is clear: we must make sure that George Zimmerman is held accountable for his actions. The jury’s decision must be respected and the rule of law upheld, but that does not mean the investigation should be considered complete.

The trial judge’s decision to discount debate about race or racial profiling in the courtroom leaves open questions about Zimmerman’s motivation and intent.

The Department of Justice has the power to investigate whether Zimmerman’s actions constitute a hate crime under federal law. The Department has closely monitored the case since March, and only put their investigation on hold to respect the state’s trial. Since the verdict and the overwhelming response, Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to re-open his investigation.

As he told the Delta Sigma Theta convention this week, “We are determined to meet division and confusion with understanding and compassion – and also with truth.”

This is the power of one million voices. One voice in angry protest can be ignored, but when one million people speak as one – and thousands more take to the street in peaceful protest, rallies and vigils – we can change the world.

So what comes next? As we closely follow the Department of Justice’s investigation, we must continue to draw on our collective outrage and refuse to let the memory of Trayvon Martin fade from the hearts and minds of the nation.

Trayvon Martin’s death did not occur in a vacuum. Ours was supposed to be the first generation of black Americans to be judged not by our race or the color of our skin. Instead, we find ourselves to be the most murdered generation in the country and the most incarcerated on the planet.

Meanwhile, racial profiling continues to rear its ugly head in law enforcement and civilian life alike.

At this moment we have a chance to address some of these societal ills. We have a chance to challenge racial profiling in all its forms, and to fight the underlying cause of violence in our communities – by the good guys and bad guys alike.

This last year we have already changed the world. Not a single state in the continental United States has passed a “stand your ground” law in 2013 – the first time in eight years. And last month the New York City Council passed a strong bill banning the racially abusive practice of “stop and frisk” policing, after hundreds of thousands of people protested in the name of Trayvon.

We have a choice. We can be felled by our sorrows over the jury’s decision. Or we can turn our frustration into action. We will demand the Department of Justice address the travesties of this tragedy. We will advance our movement to end racial profiling in America.

And with one million people at our back, we will make sure that the memory Trayvon Martin never fades from the hearts and minds of this nation.

Sign the NAACP’s petition at www.naacp.org

Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.

 

Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Bay Area

Sen. Wiener, Mayor Breed Announce Bill to Shut Down Fencing of Stolen Goods

On June 3, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed joined State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to announce a bill aiming to combat fencing, the sale of stolen goods. Authored by Wiener and sponsored by Breed, Senate Bill (SB) 925 would allow San Francisco to create permitting requirements to regulate the sale of items commonly obtained through retail theft and impose criminal penalties for those who engage in this practice.

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By Oakland Post Staff

On June 3, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed joined State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to announce a bill aiming to combat fencing, the sale of stolen goods.

Authored by Wiener and sponsored by Breed, Senate Bill (SB) 925 would allow San Francisco to create permitting requirements to regulate the sale of items commonly obtained through retail theft and impose criminal penalties for those who engage in this practice.

“The sale of stolen items in San Francisco has created unsafe street conditions and health and safety hazards that have negatively impacted residents, businesses, City workers, and legitimate street vendors,” states a statement released by the mayor’s office.

San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief Bill Scott praised the effort.

“I want to thank Mayor Breed and Senator Wiener for identifying new ways to combat the illegal fencing of stolen goods. This will help our hard-working officers continue to make progress in cracking down on retail theft,” said Scott.

Under the legislation, San Francisco can require vendors to obtain a permit to be able to sell items deemed as frequently stolen by asking for documentation that the merchandise was obtained legitimately, such as showing proof of purchase.

The legislation also establishes that those in violation would receive an infraction for the first two offenses and an infraction or a misdemeanor and up to six months in county jail for the third offense.

Under this bill, people can still:

  • Sell goods with a permit
  • Sell prepared food with a permit
  • Sell goods on the list of frequently stolen items with a permit and proof of purchase.

“In San Francisco we are working hard to make our streets safer and more welcoming for all. SB 925 would greatly help us get a handle on the sale of stolen goods, all while taking a narrow approach that specifically targets bad actors,” said Breed.

Wiener says the cultural richness of San Francisco and the livelihoods of legitimate street vendors are threatened when bad actors are allowed to openly sell stolen goods on the city’s streets.

“With this bill we’re taking a balanced approach that respects the critical role street vending plays in our community while holding fencing operations accountable for the disruption they cause. It’s critical that everyone feel safe on our streets, including street vendors and neighborhood residents,” said Wiener.

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Community

Public Policy Inst. of California Releases Data on Hate Crimes

Hate crimes against minorities have increased statewide over the last decade with a spike in violent crimes between 2020 and 2022, states a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report. The recent increase in violent hate crimes is backed by data revealing that victims were targeted based on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, and gender. Those violent hate crimes disproportionately affected Black, Latino, and Asian individuals.

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By California Black Media

Hate crimes against minorities have increased statewide over the last decade with a spike in violent crimes between 2020 and 2022, states a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report.

The recent increase in violent hate crimes is backed by data revealing that victims were targeted based on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, and gender. Those violent hate crimes disproportionately affected Black, Latino, and Asian individuals. Incidents of violent hate crimes including assault grew by 791. The number of property-related hate crimes, including vandalism, increased by 314 incidents. In all the incidents reported, 25% of the hate crimes included the use of weapons including knives, handguns, and clubs.

The report stated that violent hate crimes remain underreported. The California Department of Justice is working on plans to invest more money in facilitating the reporting of hate crimes and supporting communities affected most by these incidents.

According to the report between 2019 and 2022, hate crimes targeting Black people tripled, while incidents against Latinos doubled, and attacks against Asians more than tripled in recent years.

“These increases are overwhelmingly driven by violent rather than property crimes,” the report stated.

In 2022, approximately 75% of all reported hate crimes included violent attacks against Black, Latino, or Asian people.

The state has since passed bills to address current and emerging issues related to hate crimes. The Legislature passed AB 485 in 2020, requiring local law enforcement agencies to post monthly updates of hate crimes online. Legislators passed AB 449 in 2023, a law that requires local law enforcement agencies to report suspected hate crimes and provide information that helps report hate crimes to the state attorney general.

Gov. Gavin Newsom launched the “CA vs Hate” campaign, an educational awareness campaign that includes a hotline and online resources for reporting hate crimes. The campaign also provided funds to community-based organizations supporting victims of hate crimes.

“This potential change in reporting behavior, along with increased media attention to the problem, may be partially responsible for the recent uptick in the number of incidents we report on here,” the report stated.

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