Demanding Justice For Trayvon Martin; The Ineptness Of The Sanford Police Department; Plus Pres. Obama’s Comments On The Florida Teen’s Death (VIDEO)

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, Dr. Chris Metzler, a political scientist at Georgetown University; April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks; and Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of The Bernard Center joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the Trayvon Martin case and Americans demanding justice for the slain Florida teen.

MR. MARTIN:  There’s more to the Trayvon Martin case for our roundtable.  Here today are Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, an “action tank” – not a think tank, as she said –


MR. MARTIN:  — Dr. Chris Metzler, a political scientist at Georgetown University; April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks; and Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of The Bernard Center.

Folks, welcome –

MS. DIANIS:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  — back to the show.

DR. CHRIS METZLER:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  You know, it’s interesting.  I w- — I’m always wearing suits and ties on the show, and it was really amazing this weetch [sic – phonetic] when you s- –this week when you saw in New York, and you saw in Philadelphia, and you saw folks all around the country who were saying, “Wear hoodies for Tray-” – “Trayvon Martin.”  And this story, to me, is far different than some of these other social justice stories that we’re seen, where literally you’re seeing vigils and events in 40, 50 cities across America, even other parts of – of the world.

What makes this different?

MS. MICHELLE BERNARD:  Because when you look at this young man – this is not a child who was engaged in bad behavior.  He could be anyone’s son.  If you think about some of the photos we’ve seen of him in his football uniform, or even in the hoodie, he is a – he is a young, sweet – he was a young, sweet child; and his life was taken from him, and there’s not one parent in the country who can look at that picture and not say, “But for the grace of God, that could’ve been my own son.”


MS. DIANIS:  Right.  It’s an issue that speaks to everybody, and – and it’s a teachable moment – right?  We’ve got to use this moment to actually capitalize on the fact that racial profiling happens, and Trayvon was one person who was a victim of it, and that we can’t allow it to happen any longer.  Wearing a hood – that’s not what it’s about.  It’s about a young, Black male.

MR. MARTIN:  As I said to the panel before, I also think that what resonated in this case was just the absolute ineptness of the Sanford Police Department –

OFF CAMERA:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — because –


MR. MARTIN:  — we all know the conversation that we have with young, Black men in –

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — terms of how to act –


MR. MARTIN:  — how to do cer- — to do certain things –

MS. APRIL RYAN:  What not to wear.

MR. MARTIN:  — what not to wear.  But when you literally sit here and see, you know, didn’t take the clothes, let him have the gun back, wasn’t arrested, bought the “self-defense,” didn’t check Trayvon’s cell phone, you’re sitting here going, “How in the world can” – “is that justice when you couldn’t even do a basic investigation?”

OFF CAMERA:  Absolutely.

DR. METZLER:  And that’s the – that’s the problem.  So, as a former prosecutor, a couple of things really came to mind.  Number one, how do you simply buy a defense that someone – a potential criminal – has put in place?  We’ve never done that.  For the police department – and to say that they have “looked at the law,” and they have no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman is absolutely legally incorrect.  Look.  If I walk down the street, and I look suspicious, that’s probable cause enough for the police to arrest me.  And as you look at this whole kind of thing in terms of this “self-defense,” he is going to have to prove that self-defense.  That doesn’t mean that he’s not arrested.

So, what –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

DR. METZLER:  — it says to us is that there is this ineptness.  There is this kind of desire to take the word – and the fact that you test the victim

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

DR. METZLER:  — for drugs, and you don’t test the alleged perpetrator?

And – and – and, finally, he is not even entitled to that defense under the law.  The law is absolutely clear.  If you are the pursuer, you are not entitled to that defense.  The 9-1-1 tape says it.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.  April –

MS. RYAN:  And –

MR. MARTIN:  — April –

MS. RYAN:  — and –

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I want – before – April – this is very interesting, and – and I want to go to you on this, because being [of you] being with American Urban Radio Networks.

MS. RYAN:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  Black media drove this.

MS. RYAN:  Yes.

MS. DIANIS:  Absolutely.

MS. RYAN:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  I mean le- — let’s just be real –


MR. MARTIN:  — clear.  I mean on the local level, the “Orlando Sentinel” – they’ve been covering it.  Tremayne Lee, who is a writer for –


MR. MARTIN:  — he has been on this.  And when Black media folks beg[a]n to drive this on social media, we forced mainstream media to wake up and do something; because otherwise, they were ignoring it, and they were being quiet about it.

MS. RYAN:  — and – and – and it’s not just the fact that Black media drove it.  We have all these stories that we get all the time, but it’s – it’s the way the story happened.  We know that this young man had Skittles.  He was walking to his father’s girlfriend’s home.  He was – he was innocent, unarmed.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. RYAN:  And we hear the 9-1-1 tapes.  The – the evidence is resounding.  What happened – and it helped Black media put this out there, and White media – mainstream media – said, “Look.  My God.  This is” – “This is a real big deal.”

So, it just kept – it kept snowballing and snowballing.  So, now George Zimmerman is basically an OJ Simpson.

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

MS. RYAN:  He is in his own jail, no matter what –

MR. MARTIN:  A – a lot of –

MS. RYAN:  — happens.

MR. MARTIN:  — people got upset at me when I talked about the need for Pres. Barack Obama to say something about this.  People said, “It’s a local matter.  He shouldn’t.”  They brought up the whole Henry Louis Gates – Henry Louis “Skip” Gates deal.  And I said, “No.”  I said, “I believe there’s something broader here that you can actually say.”  And, again, there was a lot of pushback.  And it’s very interesting.  African-Americans were demanding so many other people stand up, but then got protective of the President.

Friday, when he announced the appointment to the World Bank, the President did take a question and spoke to this, and this is what he said.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  I’m the head of the executive branch, and the Attorney General reports to me, so I’ve got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we’re not impairing any investigation that’s taking place right now; but obviously, this is a tragedy.  I can only imagine what these parents are going through.  And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.  And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together – federal, state and local – to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.

So, I’m glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it.  I understand now that the governor of the State of Florida has formed a taskforce to investigate what’s taking place.  I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen.  And that means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.

But my main message is – is to the parents of Trayvon Martin.  You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.  And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness that it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.


MR. MARTIN:  Do you think that now the President has spoken, that this is now also going to force the Republican candidates to have to address this issue?  Because –

MS. BERNARD:  Yeah, yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  — they’ve been very silent.

MS. BERNARD:  A- — as a matter of fact, I wrote a piece last week for “The” – for “The Hill” that literally was called “Trayvon Martin and the Republican Contenders,” and one of the things that I said in the article was, in light of the fact that we had the Illinois primary, that Illinois was the spiritual home of both Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln, how is it that not one of the Republican contenders for the presidency of the United States saw – didn’t see fit to utter one word about what is the biggest international news story that has hit the area in a very, very long time?  This child was murdered, and not one of them said a word –

MS. RYAN:  Michelle –

MS. BERNARD:  — about it.

MS. RYAN:  — first of all – Michelle, first of all, you know just as well as I do many of these candidates are not catering to the certain group that the Trayvon Martin story caters to.

MS. BERNARD:  But they will –

MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead –

MS. BERNARD:  — [crosstalk] –

MS. RYAN:  — but –

MR. MARTIN:  — and say it.  “Black folks.”

MS. BERNARD:  — yeah.

MS. RYAN:  — okay.  Yeah, Black folks.


MS. RYAN:  And we have seen that.

MR. MARTIN:  This is a Black show –


MR. MARTIN:  — on a Black network.

MS. RYAN:  But wait a minute!  Wait a minute!


MR. MARTIN:  You can say, “Black people.”

MS. RYAN:  But wait a minute.


MS. RYAN:  But – but – but we’re also seeing it in the polls.  All these primaries –

MS. BERNARD:  Right.

MS. RYAN:  — the Black numbers are so low, that they can’t be measured –

MR. MARTIN:  But – but –

MS. RYAN:  — [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — here’s the –

MS. RYAN:  So, they’re not –

MR. MARTIN:  — but here –

MS. RYAN:  — worrying a- —

MR. MARTIN:  — but – but here – but here’s –

MS. RYAN:  — necessarily –

MR. MARTIN:  — a – here’s a greater point.  I don’t care.  If you want to be President of the United States –

OFF CAMERA:  And of the whole country.

MR. MARTIN:  — and you want to – no, no, no, no.  One –


MR. MARTIN:  — second, April – and you want to rep- — represent the entire country, you should have the guts and the courage to stand there –


MS. RYAN:  I’m not –

MR. MARTIN:  — and –

MS. RYAN:  — justifying –

MR. MARTIN:  — and – and –

MS. RYAN:  — what they’re doing.

MR. MARTIN:  — and – and if you stand there and call yourselves “pro-life” –

OFF CAMERA:  You’re for every-

MR. MARTIN:  — you should care –

OFF CAMERA:  — –thing.  You are –

MR. MARTIN:  — about this boy’s –

OFF CAMERA:  — the President.

MR. MARTIN:  — life.


MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.


MR. MARTIN:  One second.

MS. DIANIS:  But the problem is –

MR. MARTIN:   One second.  One second.

MS. RYAN:  I’m not justifying

MS. DIANIS:  The problem is –

MS. RYAN:  — what they’re doing.

MR. MARTIN:  One second.

MS. DIANIS:  — the – but the pro- —

MR. MARTIN:  I – I unders- — I understand.

MS. DIANIS:  — the problem is – is that the Republican Party has been behind backing the laws that are at –

MR. MARTIN:  The “stand your ground” laws.

MS. DIANIS:  — the – the “stand your ground” laws.

MS. RYAN:  But – and –


MS. RYAN:  — rights to carry –

MS. DIANIS:  — they’re –

MS. RYAN:  — a gun.

MS. DIANIS:  — the –

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

MS. DIANIS:  — the American Legislative Exchange Council was the architect of this.  After it passed in Florida, they went and took it to other states –

MR. MARTIN:  Twenty-three –

MS. DIANIS:  — and passed it.

MR. MARTIN:  — other states.

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.  And so they’re in a little bit of a bind –

MS. RYAN:  Gun laws.

MS. DIANIS:  — to come out –

MS. RYAN:  Gun laws.

MS. DIANIS:  — and say that this is a problem, because the NRA –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. DIANIS:  — is not –

MS. RYAN:  Yes.

MS. DIANIS:  — going to go for it.


MS. BERNARD:  This is – this is what –

MR. MARTIN:  Michelle.

MS. BERNARD:  — this is the point I wanted – one of the point[s] I want to make.  In the piece I did, we had people writing in saying, “Michelle Bernard made a mistake.  George Zimmerman is not White.  He His- ” – “is Hispanic.”  And we cleared it up.  “Hispanic” is an ethnicity; it is not a race.  Hispanics self-identify as White, Black, Asian –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. BERNARD:  — a whole lot of other things.

But what will be interesting, though, given – if you put together the immigration laws that we’ve seen in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia – all over the country – that are c- — that – that basically allow for racial profiling, the Republicans – this – this election is going to come down to demographics.  Republicans might start saying something, because George Zimmerman’s parents are not saying, “He’s not White.  He’s Hispanic.”  And Republicans need that Hispanic vote.

MS. RYAN:  Well –

MS. BERNARD:  So, maybe –

MS. RYAN:  — well Ro- –

MS. BERNARD:  — they will magically now decide to say something.

MS. RYAN:  — Roland –


MS. RYAN:  — as you know – really fast – and going back to –

MR. MARTIN:  Real quick.  Fifteen seconds.

MS. RYAN:  — what – going back to about Pres. Obama, he was very strategic in his statements, and the Administration have been working all week.  I mean I even got calls early – early in the week, asking me, “What do you think about Trayvon Martin?”  So, they had been trying to strategically plan how the President was going to deliver it, and it was delivered right in his lap Friday in a question, and he answered it strategically.  He did not make the same mistakes that he did with the Henry Louis Gate i- — Gates issue at that press conference when asked a question.  He – he was straight, strategic, no emotion.

MR. MARTIN:  Actually, there – there was some emotion in – some folks I’ve talked to, but I will say this.  End –

MS. RYAN:  I’m talking – [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — at the e- — end of the day, I think they had no choice [but] to say something –

MS. RYAN:  No choice.

MR. MARTIN:  — because this story –

MS. BERNARD:  He needed to.

MR. MARTIN:  — has gone –

MS. RYAN:  Viral.

MR. MARTIN:  — in such a huge way –

MS. BERNARD:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — it has gone beyond being a local story.  It is a much larger piece, and – and we’re going to be hearing about this for a long time.  And I do –


MR. MARTIN:  — think that this could – this will – may have a different impact, I think, than Jena –


MR. MARTIN:  — Six.  I really believe that.

MS. RYAN:  It will.

MS. DIANIS:  Oh, I – I agree.

MR. MARTIN:  Folks, I certainly appreciate it.  Thanks a bunch.

MS. RYAN:  Thank you.