The killing of Trayvon Martin went viral a few weeks ago. It took that national (and international) furor, in fact, to kick-start Florida’s dormant justice system. After mounting public outrage, a special prosecutor was appointed by Governor Rick Scott nearly a month after the death, and there will be a grand jury after all. In case Florida justice still can’t deliver a decent investigation, both the FBI and the US Department of Justice have started up parallel ones.
Meanwhile, Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, walks free and still has the right to carry a gun.
But Sanford is not the only town or city in America where unarmed Black folks are gunned down and the justice system somehow fails to function.
And then, to prove that it’s not just kids exposed to a hail of lead from Mr. Charlie, there’s the revolting case of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old Marine veteran shot by cops in White Plains, New York this past November.
The police were not responding to a suspected crime. They were answering a medical alert distress call, which Chamberlain, who had a heart condition, apparently set off in his sleep.
The police broke down his door, Tasered him, shot him with a beanbag, and then put two rounds in his chest. Audio and video of the incident reveal that one officer used the n-word, that the cops mocked Chamberlain’s Marine credentials, and that—contrary to the police version—the man was standing with his hands by his sides with no weapon visible. On the audio, he could be heard begging them to leave him alone.
The audio was from the very medical alert device that summoned the
hit squad police, and the video was attached to the Taser used on Chamberlain. Both are in the hands of the District Attorney’s office: they have not been released to the public, but shown to the bereaved family “as a courtesy.” Big of them.
In any case, nothing was done, and the White Plains police department wouldn’t even release the killer’s name. Once again, it took a public outcry to force the authorities to convene a grand jury, months after the shooting. And the District Attorney’s office has refused to confirm that the video and audio will even be presented at that time.
This lengthy newsclip is well worth watching. The most powerful comments are from a former state prosecutor, and they are simply scathing.
The family is suing the White Plains police—what other avenue of justice is available to them? Too bad an African American teenager in Mississippi, jailed and charged with first-degree murder for having a miscarriage, doesn’t have access to resources like that.
We are not all Trayvon Martin. But there are a heck of a lot of Trayvon Martins out there, either waiting to be killed or already dead. There are people around who are happy to do the wetwork. There are even more to praise them for a job well done, or to provide them with alibis. And there is a veritable horde of enablers, the ones who make endless excuses for a flawed justice system, the ones so handwringingly concerned about due process and evidence—evidence that would never have surfaced without public anger, and due process that has as yet failed to materialize. They wag their fingers because we dare even to call for arrests and a trial, and they sternly warn us about the dangers of mob rule.
Wrong mob, folks. The real mob is working in slo-mo, lynching one victim at a time. That other “mob”—a public outraged enough to hold rallies against manifest wrongdoing, one that insists on speaking out to force the reluctant hand of American justice—is all that stands at present between too many Blacks and their future killers. And so far it’s failing to rule.