Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the one year anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin and stand your ground laws.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Republican Texas State Representative Stefani Carter; Karen Finney, MSNBC political Analyst; Elroy Sailor, co-director of the J.C. Watts Companies; and principal of IMPACT Strategies, Angela Rye.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back, folks.
In the roundtable: Republican Texas State Representative Stefani Carter; Karen Finney, MSNBC political Analyst; Elroy Sailor, co-director of the J.C. Watts Companies – and he[’s], got a nice pocket square; and principal of IMPACT Strategies, Angela Rye.
Folks, welcome to the show.
All right. I want to begin with the anniversary of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Of course, one year ago this week, he was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida.
There have been demonstrations and vigils all over the country, including one on Tuesday night in Union Square in New York City. Trayvon’s mother, Sabrina Fulton; and father, Tracy Martin, were there; as well as actor Jamie Foxx; and they talked of meeting Trayvon’s mom, backstage at the NAACP Image awards.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. JAMIE FOXX: As I stood there with my daughter – she’s 19 now – and I just – I started to think, man, what would – what would I feel like if she wasn’t there with me.
And so I made a commitment that night, also with the help of Harry Belafonte, who spoke so eloquently that night – said we have so much influence and so much money, but we don’t do anything with it. And I felt embarrassed. And I want you to know that this is a personal thing.
Think about that child on his way home to see his father, and all of a sudden that child has his life taken from him.
All we’re asking is simplicity. The simple thing is allow the court system to work.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: Now, what’s interesting about this particular case [is] a lot of people say not much has happened, but a whole lot has happened in the past year. I mean were it not for the Trayvon Martin case, most folks would have no idea about “stand your ground” laws. They wouldn’t know about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council –
MS. KAREN FINNEY: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — and the kind[s] of things that they actually got behind.
And so your thoughts on, really, what has transpired in the past year.
MS. FINNEY: I think a lot of it is – I mean, number one, the “stand your ground” laws, the power of ALEC and how the membership actually works – we know that the NRA is connected to ALEC. I think that influences this gun safety/control debate that we’re having. But also, it should have – and I think it started the debate on just what are we doing with our laws when a young man walking home with Skittles in his hand gets shot?
And I think, in terms of safety, in terms of keeping our communities safe, I do think it sparked a broader conversation that I don’t actually think that the Trayvon Martin case gets enough credit for.
MR. ELROY SAILOR: Right, right.
MS. ANGELA RYE: I think also it’s really important to look at what happened with the President. The President talked about Trayvon Martin in a way that we hadn’t seen him address race and the trials and tribulations of being African-American in the United States since his Philadelphia speech during the campaign. So, he said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin,” and I think that that provided some emotional connection that some folks who aren’t African-American didn’t experience before that.
MR. MARTIN: Stephanie, what also got me was I did a number of conservative talk shows this week, and they were going, “Yeah, but these protests, and people are angry.” And I have to remind them we’re – and they kept saying, “Well, we should allow the legal system to run its course.”
I said, “If you didn’t have those protests” –
MR. SAILOR: [Chuckles.] Right.
MS. RYE: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — “we wouldn’t even be at this point where there’s actually a trial slated for June, because the Sanford Police Department didn’t even begin processing the evidence until a month after the shooting.”
So, it was the protests, the social media – all of that – that actually got us to the point we’re at right now.
MR. SAILOR: Well, I’m going to agree with Angela. To start off the show, I’m going to agree –
MS. RYE: Amen!
MR. SAILOR: — with Angela. I do think –
MR. SAILOR: — [chuckles] – I mean I do think, you know, the President – that opportunity allowed the President to – because I’ve been on the show, blasting the President for too long in terms of this. As an African-American man, he’s the first African-American president. As a black Republican, I would have liked to have seen more focus from him on the African-American community. So, I do think that allowed the President to begin to talk about the African-American community in a way that many of us had not seen before.
As it relates to the protests and letting the courts run its course, you know, you think through – Washington, nonprofits, for-profits – they understand two things: profit and pressure. Profit and pressure are the two things that most people understand. So, if you’re not making –
MR. MARTIN: Corporate –
MR. SAILOR: — money –
MR. MARTIN: — America understands profit and pressure.
MS. FINNEY: Right. [Chuckles.]
MR. SAILOR: — right, but I’m saying that’s the only thing they understand –
MR. MARTIN: That’s right!
MR. SAILOR: — profit and pressure. So, if you’re not making money, or you’re not getting any pressure, rarely do you have change. So, I don’t mind protest, and I clearly love making profit.
So, in terms of the people who were out protesting – hey, I think that’s the way to get attention, you know. And when you’re protesting, it gives you a situation where you have a binary decision tree. Think of Malcolm and Martin. Malcolm did a protestors-in-the-street approach to deal with civil justice and injustices. Martin Luther King dealt with peaceful movement, but you had an option.
So, I think, in terms of what you’re seeing that’s going on in the streets in terms of the protests – but, then, there’re also other organizations out there that are trying to take a different approach and saying, “Let the legal system work.” I just think that’s the beauty of America –
MR. MARTIN: Stefani –
MR. SAILOR: — bottom line.
MR. MARTIN: — you are a[n] elected official, and as someone who is sitting there, making these kinds of laws, the “stand your ground” law, I believe, has caused a lot of folks to say, “Wait a minute. You have individuals out there who can shoot someone and then say, ‘Hey, I was standing my ground.’”
And I’ve heard from prosecutors and law enforcement folks who said, “Y’all [are] making our job harder, because we can’t actually investigate a case the way we should because this actually muddies the water.”
REP. STEFANI CARTER: Um-hum. Well, I do think that the “stand your ground” law will remain the law in Texas, and there are proposals to reverse the law. I do think that –
MR. MARTIN: Do you think it’s a just law?
REP. CARTER: — I think that the law is correct.
MR. MARTIN: Why is that?
REP. CARTER: I think it’s correct because, ultimately, if you were protecting your home, your family, your property; and if somebody comes on to your property and says, “I’m going to break in,” you should be able to stand your ground.
MR. MARTIN: Now – now, I agree with that. First of all, I’m born and raised and Texas. That’s been the law in Texas a long time.
MR. MARTIN: That’s been the law in Texas a long time –
MS. RYE: [Crosstalk] – different from –
MR. MARTIN: — but the –
MS. RYE: — “stand your ground.”
MR. MARTIN: — “stand your ground” law is different, because it actually extends that –
MS. RYE: — the “castle doctrine.”
MR. MARTIN: — beyond the home –
MR. SAILOR: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — to anywhere. So, if I’m actually at a store, if I’m actually walking down the street – in the case of Trayvon, that wasn’t actually Zimmerman’s property or Trayvon Martin’s dad’s property. That was just him looking at him. And so what about that, though, where anybody can claim “stand your ground” anywhere, even beyond their property?
REP. CARTER: Right. So, if you’re on your property, and you step off, and you go to the curb, and you’re on the city property, I do think that the “stand your ground” law should apply.
MR. MARTIN: Okay, but let’s get away from the house. I’m talking about at the mall.
REP. CARTER: Okay, you’re –
MR. MARTIN: I’m saying –
REP. CARTER: — at the mall.
MR. MARTIN: — at the gas station. I’m saying that in that kind of instance, does that, though, make it difficult for a law enforcement official to say, “Wait a minute. What actually went on here?” Because the way the laws are written, if you simply say, “I stood my ground,” there are immunity clauses in there that actually prevent you from even being arrested.
REP. CARTER: Whether it is at the edge of one’s property, or at the grocery store, you should be able to feel safe and protect your person. And does that lead to problems? Yes, it does. Trayvon Martin is a tragic story, and there are thousands of victims of gun violence, and it’s terrible. And my heart truly goes out to all those people –
MS. FINNEY: But – [crosstalk] –
REP. CARTER: — but that doesn’t mean that we should necessarily reverse the law.
MS. FINNEY: — well, but part of what the Trayvon Martin case, I think, exposed is the flaw in the law. I mean because even in the initial conversation, there was disagreement even among people who support “stand your ground” about –
MR. MARTIN: Actually, the person –
MS. FINNEY: — when it applies –
MR. MARTIN: — who actually –
MS. FINNEY: — when it doesn’t apply.
MR. MARTIN: — proposed the law in Florida –
MS. FINNEY: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: — said, “No, this is not ‘stand your ground.’”
MS. FINNEY: Well, I think part of what it exposed is, you know, again, there is this larger process that involved ALEC, that involves profit, that involves pressure from for-profit entities –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. FINNEY: — wanting to get these laws passed, wanting to see gun sales increased, that maybe people did not take enough time to think through the ramifications of some of this –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. FINNEY: — legislation and what the actual impact is. I think that was part of what has to come out of this case.
MR. MARTIN: Folks, hold tight one second. [I’ve] got to go to a break, pay some bills – that profit part.
MR. MARTIN: So, folks, we’ll continue the conversation when we come back. And also later, President Barack Obama unveils a statue of Rosa Parks in the U.S. Capitol building. I was there, and I talked to folks about what it meant to them – a lot of them.
So, stay with us.