Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Holder condemns 'Stand Your Ground' laws [naturally]

He's not real fond of self-defense or the US Constitution either.






Attorney General Eric Holder condemns 'Stand Your Ground' laws

By Manuel Roig-Franzia, Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 4:58 PM

ORLANDO — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. strongly condemned so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws here Tuesday in a speech to the NAACP that addressed the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

The laws "sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," Holder said, by "allowing – and perhaps encouraging – violent situations to escalate in public."

"These laws try to fix something that was never broken," Holder said, drawing extensive applause from the delegates in the convention hall. "The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent."

More than 30 states, including Florida, have passed "Stand Your Ground" laws, which allow people to defend themselves with deadly force, rather than retreating, if they feel they are in danger or a serious felony is about to be committed.

Zimmerman did not cite the law in his trial defense. But police in Sanford, Fla. said the law was one of the reasons the neighborhood watch volunteer was not arrested shortly after he shot Martin.

And the instructions given to the jury said that as long as Zimmerman was not involved in an illegal activity and had a right to be where he was when the shooting occurred, "he had no duty to retreat and the right to stand his ground."

Martin, 17, was unarmed but, according to defense attorneys, initiated a physical fight after Zimmerman began tailing him.

Holder told the NAACP delegates that the Justice Department is conducting an investigation to determine whether civil rights charges should be filed against Zimmerman, who was acquitted over the weekend.

Some Justice officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, and many outside experts have said that bringing civil rights charges against Zimmerman would be extremely difficult and perhaps impossible. But delegates here believe that it will be hard for Holder, the nation's first African American attorney general, to ignore an NAACP petition seeking such charges that already has been signed by hundreds of thousands.

"That's leverage," said Gary Bledsoe, vice chairman of the NAACP's legal committee. He said that he heard enough during Zimmerman's three-week trial to convince him that race played a role in Martin's killing.

Especially compelling, Bledsoe said, was a statement Zimmerman made in a call to a non-emergency police line after spotting Martin walking through his community in Sanford, just north of Orlando: "These a--holes, they always get away." Any linguist would say Zimmerman's comment had racial connotations, Bledsoe said.

"There are so many references with clear racial undertones," Bledsoe, a Texas civil rights lawyer, said in an interview. "You can break down the language."

He and others here were encouraged by Holder's comment that Martin's death was "unnecessary" during a speech Monday to a predominantly African American sorority. Holder's remark seemed to contradict the defense team's contention that Zimmerman feared his life was in danger and had no other option than to shoot in self-defense.

The verdict has sparked demonstrations in major cities across the country, including protests in Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., that had moments of violence. At least nine people were arrested and one man was injured in Oakland on Monday night, and marchers in Los Angeles tore down railings and blocked a freeway. Baltimore police are investigating a claim that a Hispanic man was beaten over the weekend by black youths who said, "This is for Trayvon," according to the Baltimore Sun.

But the mood in Sanford, where the trial took place, has been remarkably calm, with small rallies and prayer services, rather than fiery protests.

And the atmosphere in Orlando's Orange County Convention Center before Holder's speech was so subdued, and the volume of conversations so low, that Lloyd Thompson, an NAACP district official from northern Louisiana, could comfortably take a nap in a lobby chair.

When he awoke, Thompson repeated a common theme here: The scattered incidents of violence at demonstrations are hurting efforts to convince federal prosecutors that civil rights charges should be filed. Protest, Thompson said, "needs to be done in a quiet, soft manner."

Like many delegates here, Thompson is organizing a demonstration in his home community. His will take place over the weekend, in front of a federal courthouse.

"Something's got to be done," the 48-year-old transportation consultant said. Back home, he said, his friends and colleagues "don't feel this is finished."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader and MSNBC host who organized a major rally in Sanford last year to press for Zimmerman's arrest, announced Tuesday that he will lead "Justice for Trayvon" events in 100 cities across the country this weekend.

Thompson is hopeful that race will not be the sole of focus of debate following Zimmerman's acquittal on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. "I'm concerned about gun violence," he said. "That conversation has got to be held in the halls of Washington and in the halls of Baton Rouge," Louisiana's capital.

Holder's remarks about "Stand Your Ground" come two days after singer Stevie Wonder announced plans to boycott states that have such laws on the books.

"I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again," Wonder said onstage at a concert in Quebec City. "As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world."


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