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Washington Watch: George Zimmerman Arrested And The Next Steps In The Trayvon Martin Case (VIDEO)

A major milestone this week in the march toward justice for Trayvon Martin. Forty-five days after George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He remains in jail, waiting for a May 29th arraignment.

Judith Browne Dianis, Jeff Johnson, Dr. Donald Tibbs and Rev. Jamal Bryant joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the arrest of George Zimmerman as well as the next steps in the Trayvon Martin Case.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

A major milestone this week in the march toward justice for Trayvon Martin.  Forty-five days after George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.  He remains in jail, waiting for a May 29th arraignment.  The legal document behind the charge, called an “affidavit of probable cause,” contained these chilling words.  Trayvon Martin, quote, “was on his way back to the townhouse where he was living when he was profiled by George Zimmerman.  Martin was unarmed and was not committing a crime.  Zimmerman, who also lived in the gated community and was driving his vehicle, observed Martin and assumed Martin was a criminal.  Zimmerman felt Martin did not belong in the gated community and called the police,” unquote.

In this section referring to the phone conversation with Trayvon’s girlfriend, quote, “The witness advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn’t know why.  Martin attempted to run home, but was followed by Zimmerman….  Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin.  When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that….  Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin, who was trying to get home,” unquote.

This affidavit of probable cause was written by the prosecution team and will have to be proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt, but it shows that the prosecutor believes what many believe happened that night.

Trayvon Martin’s mother and father had this reaction to the arrest of George Zimmerman.

[VIDEO CLIP.]

MS. SYBRINA FULTON:  First of all, I want to say thank God.

OBSERVERS:  Amen.  Thank you, Jesus.

[APPLAUSE.]

MS. FULTON:  We simply wanted an arrest.  We wanted nothing more, nothing less.  We just wanted an arrest, and we got it.  And I say thank you.  Thank you, Lord.  Thank you, Jesus.

[APPLAUSE.]

OBSERVER:  Thank you, Jesus.

MS. FULTON:  Secondly, I just want to speak from my heart to your heart, because a heart has no color.  It’s not Black.  It’s not white.  It’s red.  And I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart.  [Whispers.]  Thank you.

[APPLAUSE.]

MR. TRACY MARTIN:  First of all, we’d just like to thank everyone once again for being compassionate about this, as we were, as we are, as we will be.  As Attorney Crump said, this is just the beginning.  We[’ve] got a long way to go, and we have faith. The first – the first time we marched, I looked to the sky, and I just told myself, “When I walk, I will walk by faith.”

OBSERVER:  Amen!

[APPLAUSE.]

MR. MARTIN:  And we will continue – [applause] – we will continue to walk by faith.  We will continue to hold hands on this journey – White, Black, Hispanic, Latino.  We will continue to walk.  We will march and march and march until the right thing is done.

Thank you.

[END OF VIDEO.]

MR. MARTIN:  This case has galvanized the African-American community and many others.  The online petitions, social media, the marches, the protests and the vigils finally worked to get an arrest.

But an arrest doesn’t mean a conviction, and it doesn’t change the fact that Trayvon Martin is a symbol of a culture of injustice and disrespect for African-American lives.  The question is, how do we take this Trayvon Martin moment and turn it into a long-term movement for justice?  Here to discuss that [are]:  Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, a legal action group committed to racial justice; Dr. Donald Tibbs, Professor of Law at Drexel University; MSNBC contributor and activist Jeff Johnson; and the Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Maryland.

Well, folks, welcome to the show.

DR. DONALD TIBBS:  Thank you for having us on.

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  Don, I want to start with you.  Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, he says that this affidavit is not going to stand up in court and proceed to an actual trial.

Your thoughts.

DR. TIBBS:  I disagree.  I think that there’s enough information in accord to establish that probable cause has occurred and that George Zimmerman actually committed the requisite elements of the crime.  Under the State of Florida, you only have to show, for a second-degree murder charge, that the defendant engaged in a[n] unlawful killing of a human being, which we know absolutely happened, and actually did it with “depraved,” hard “indifference.”  I think you have enough facts in the affidavit to establish that George Zimmerman acted with a depraved, hard indifference – meaning that he ha- — act[ed] with a lack of due care for life.

MR. MARTIN:  Jeff, is it important for people to understand that this is the first step of a process?  It’s – tha- — that this is not the – somehow the end, something to celebrate; that, “Oh, my God.”  You know, “We actually did it.”

MR. JEFF JOHNSON:  Absolutely, and – and I think expectations have been tempered, at least at even the rallies that I’ve – I’ve gone to and – and the protests that I’ve gone to, because I think that – I – I’ve heard Rev. Bryant say it.  I’ve heard Rev. Sharpton say it.  I’ve heard those of us that – that have one on media say regularly, even after there’s a – an arrest, this is going to be a long process.

And I – I think that’s what’s positive about this – is there’s been some collective leadership in the African-American community in particular around this for those who don’t really know the legal process, to at least get a Cliffs Notes version to say, “I don’t know how long this process will take, or even what’s involved, but I know I keep hearing folks say it’s gonna take some time.”

MR. MARTIN:  Jamal, we have seen just so many people moved to act by this, whether it’s civil rights organizations, whether it’s social justice organizations; but I think what’s probably most important is that many of them were pulled along by this.  Jeff was actually marching last weekend, on Easter weekend, with a group of students from Daytona Beach to Sanford, Florida, Dream Defenders.  That’s the – that’s what they call themselves.  And so it’s – it’s interesting, to his point, that – how folks have been galvanized into action on this case to then look at other stuff.

REV. JAMAL BRYANT:  I – I think what we’ve witnessed is the dawn of a new Civil Rights Movement.  Most of those who’ve gone in the street in Orlando, Sanford, New York were not a part of historical organizations.  They have been a part, now, of a new cause, of a new movement.  I think what’s going to be very critical in this hour is how do we maintain it.

You’ve been championing “is it a moment, or a movement?” and I believe that it’s the beginning of a new movement, and young people are looking – and older people are saying, “It’s about time!”  And I think that it’s very critical that we not let it go and just wait until the next press release, or the next press conference, but we keep pressing the claim that –

MR. JOHNSON:  Or, for the verdict.

REV. BRYANT:  — there’s a – yeah – that there’s a[n] issue:  “stand your ground,” voter registration – and young people have got to be involved.

MR. MARTIN:  You’re shaking your head, because, look, you’re – you’re in this game, and I’m sure you’re saying, “Thank goodness we’ve now got” –

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “more troops in this battle.”

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.  We need a movement, and this movement’s got to be a long-term movement.  We have to take on “stand your ground,” but we also have to take on racial profiling and the way in which Black males in this country are treated, you know.  And it’s not just by the George Zimmermans.  It’s in the classroom.  It’s unemployment.  It’s in the criminal justice system.  Congress has a bill that’s called [the] End Racial Profiling Act.  We need to be calling our congressmen to make sure that that bill is passed.  It focuses on law enforcement, because we know that that’s where most of it happens; but we’ve got to look across the board at how Black males are treated in this country, and use this time to retrench and think about what our strategy is to keep for the long haul.

MR. MARTIN:  I’m a firm believer in not convoluting the message, but you just said something that – that reminded me of something, and that is Trayvon was suspended from school –

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — for ten days.

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  And now the first thing that I thought about was, look, I get kids who do certain things in schools; but to me, the last thing we need is taking a kid out of a school environment.

MS. DIANIS:  Right.

DR. TIBBS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, whether they need to go to a special class or something else – but, again, same thing.

MS. DIANIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  And we see those – those rates of Black kids being suspended at a higher rate – five times higher than White kids – as another one of those issues –

MS. DIANIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — I think, that hasn’t been talked about –

MS. DIANIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — needs – that needs to be addressed.

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.  It’s part of what we call the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  And our kids are getting caught in it.  Especially, Black males are getting caught in it all the time, and this is one of the issues, one of the first places where our children get profiled; and we need to take it on in the schools.

REV. BRYANT:  The – the credit card [companies] set up a system whereby the interest rate is set at 17 to 20 percent that, mathematically predicting, you’re going to fall behind.  Three days, it’s easy to – to catch up.  Ten days –

OFF CAMERA:  That’s right.

REV. BRYANT:  — statistically, the – the class has gone to another chapter, another lesson and another session.  In just one day, Roland, we registered 110,000 people to vote, on Easter Sunday.  Churches across the country made a commitment that we understand that, while that’s a local issue, there’s a national mandate on the value of our young people, the value of education, and the value of civic engagement.  [Unintelligible] – saying all of those issues are going to have to culminate into movement.

MR. MARTIN:  Donald, how do you, though, get people to understand that to make substantive changes with a legal system requires political action, and that is a tough slog?  Clarence Mitchell was called “the 101st senator.”  He walked the halls of Congress during the Civil Rights Movement.  That was not a three-, six-, nine-month process.

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  That literally was three, five, six, eight, ten years.  Do people understand that’s the commitment they’re going to have to make in this movement?  Donald, then Jeff.

DR. TIBBS:  I – I think so.  I think people are really keyed into that this is something that they need to be engaged in in the long run.  I think that people understand, and they’re starting to see, through this movement particularly, their voice – right – when it’s loud enough, can be heard, and it can effectuate change.  And I think as long as people understand that, that’s what connects them back to understanding certain aspects related to the Civil Rights Movement and also understanding that the Civil Rights Movement was something that was a long process.  It was not something that happened over the course of a few days.

MR. MARTIN:  Jeff.

MR. JOHNSON:  I don’t think people have any idea of – of what it’s going to take, because I don’t think that they have any real context by which to judge it.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JOHNSON:  Even when you read about the Montgomery bus boycott, saying 320-plus days –

MR. MARTIN:  Three hundred eighty-one days.

MR. JOHNSON:  — is – is – it sounds like something I can understand, but – but I don’t conceptualize walking in the rain –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JOHNSON:  — to work because I won’t take – catch the bus.

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MARTIN:  And I – I remind people that was initially supposed to be a one-day boycott.

OFF CAMERA:  Exactly.

[CROSSTALK, CHUCKLING.]

MR. JOHNSON:  No, no, no; but – but I think –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JOHNSON:  — that’s the –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JOHNSON:  — power of it.

MS. DIANIS:  Right.

MR. JOHNSON:  I don’t think people –

MS. DIANIS:  It’s long.

MR. JOHNSON:  — have to understand how long it’s going to take.  I think they have to be committed to the first step.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JOHNSON:  And if they’re committed to the first step, and you have leadership that’s providing opportunities, that’s providing training, that’s providing legitimate solutions throughout the process, then you can create a sustainability that may not have existed in the last 30 to 40 years.

MR. MARTIN:  I – I’m glad you brought up leadership, because I think that is critical, and I want all of you to speak on this.  I believe that when you talk about going from a moment to a movement, this is going to challenge traditional civil rights leadership in a way that they have not been challenged by Black folks, I believe, in some 30, 40 years.

MR. JOHNSON:  It’s already challenged.

MS. DIANIS:  But I mean –

OFF CAMERA:  Yes.

MS. DIANIS:  — but the –

DR. TIBBS:  [Crosstalk.]

MS. DIANIS:  — other thing is, “What is leadership now?” – right?  Leadership does not necessarily come in one spokesperson.

MR. MARTIN:  No, no.  No.  No –

MS. DIANIS:  You know, we’ve got –

MR. MARTIN:  — no, no.  I – I don’t –

MS. DIANIS:  — you know –

MR. MARTIN:  — mean –

MS. DIANIS:  — right.

MR. MARTIN:  — one, but – no, I’m talking about – I’m looking at multiple organizations.

MS. DIANIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  What I’m saying is I believe some pressure is being brought to bear, where people are saying, “Okay.  You are in existence; you’re here.  Now, what’re you gon’ do?”

MS. DIANIS:  Right.  But I also – I don’t think that people are waiting for the “what are you gonna do?”  People are taking to their own.  I mean there’s grassroots organizations all throughout this country that are small organizations, that we work with, that are doing the yeoman’s work, the day-in, day-out of long-term movement building.  They’re not waiting for traditional organizations, and I think that’s what we’re going to find.  We’re going to find more e-activism.  We’re going to find more “feets in the streets,” as we say, of people deciding that “we’re taking it on.”  “We’re not gonna wait for the one leader to come along.”

MR. JOHNSON:  But, Roland, there’s – there’s a missing piece, and that’s called “training,” because –

MR. MARTIN:  There ya go.

MR. JOHNSON:  — there’s a whole lot of passion and a lot of energy, but – but minimum capacity in – in some cases, because the passion only goes to a certain point. I mean I grew up in the NAACP, and – and John Johnson taught me how to do grassroots mobilization and how you put a march together, and what does that mean, and what are all the people that you have to bring to the table to be able to do that, how do you put together a sustained campaign, how do you train volunteers.  And so passion and e-organizing is going to be essential to this, but there’s going to have – there’s – have to be, even at the local level, a core group of people who are – are trained, who have data behind them, and who have some pieces.  And it doesn’t mean, to – to Judy’s point, that we – we say, “We need somebody from New York or Washington” –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JOHNSON:  — “D.C., to come save us.”

MR. MARTIN:  To your point, Jeff – and I’ve talked about SNCC, [the] Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  I think, historically, what people forget – because they’re no longer in existence – is that they literally trained.

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  Workshops.  They didn’t just jump on a bus.  They literally went to freedom riders schools.  And so to your point – and, Donald, speak to this from a legal standpoint – people are going to have to understand, “Look.  This is a bill.  These are the committees.  This [is] where it goes” –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “before it goes to the House and to the Senate.”

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MARTIN:  And so it can’t be just, “Oh, let’s go talk to the governor.”  It’s literally going to be, “How many votes do we need?  How do we get it here?”  That’s – that’s to – I think, what – really, what Jeff is talking about – that sort of –

MR. JOHNSON:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — strong, minute details that are critical to get- — getting something passed.

DR. TIBBS:  So, let me respond to Jeff’s point – right – because I think he’s absolutely right in terms of thinking about the formulistic aspects of training and training people. But this is training right here.  Right?  We’re training people through this television show, through this recording right here.  People are hearing our voice[s].  They’re coming to some understanding that this is going to be a long process.  Planting that seed, I think, is absolutely the first step, and then we get people to connect to the fact that they need this training and that they’re actually going to have –

MR. MARTIN:  Jamal –

DR. TIBBS:  — do it – [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — final comment in –

REV. BRYANT:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — this segment.

REV. BRYANT:  I think that what we’re getting ready to witness is the maturing of African-Americans to get to the point [that] leadership is not equivalent to speaking skills.

OFF CAMERA:  Exactly[?].

REV. BRYANT:  Is that 2.3 million people signed a petition on Change.org, led by a young African-American, Rashad Robinson –

MR. JOHNSON:  Yeah.

REV. BRYANT:  — who hasn’t spoken in anybody’s church –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

REV. BRYANT:  — [chuckles] – but is leading a movement –

DR. TIBBS:  ’S right.

REV. BRYANT:  — that has crossed ethnic lines, crossed dem- — e- — economic demographics, and he’s going to stand as a new frontier of what leadership looks like in our community.  It’s not now well you orate, but how well you produce.

MR. MARTIN:  And, of course, the last thing I’ll say is – and this is critical.  I’ve said it on this show many times.  It’s also about staying in your lane –

OFF CAMERA:  That’s right.

MS. DIANIS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — because a lot of folks – I – I’ve said it many times.

MS. DIANIS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Part of the problem, I believe, when t- — when we talk about Black leadership [is] we have folks who are not in their lanes, and all we have ended up with are massive car wrecks on the highway.  When you stay –

MS. DIANIS:  [Laughs.]

DR. TIBBS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — I’m just a firm belie- — I tell everybody.  I don’t march.  I do media.  I can get the word out.  I stay in my lane.

[CHUCKLING.  CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  So, I appreciate it, folks.  Thanks a bunch.  I appreciate it.

DR. TIBBS:  Thanks for havin’ us.

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