Where's the Congressional Black Caucus on the George Zimmerman Trial?
In the immediate aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting 16 months ago, members of the Congressional Black Caucus had a field day in the press, pulling stunts, making outrageous statements, and pressuring officials in Florida to seek "justice for Trayvon."
We now know that the Department of Justice intervened in the Sanford, Florida case by dispatching a crew of rabble rousers who ginned up outrage against George Zimmerman, virtually forcing local authorities to seek prosecution, after police and the local prosecutor had determined Zimmerman acted in self-defense.
But the CBC has gone silent on the matter, ostensibly because they want to allow the judicial process to move forward without their input. One wishes they had respected the process prior to the interference by the DoJ.
Rep. Bobby Rush, for instance, churned countless headlines last year when he was removed from the House floor for donning a hoodie like the one Martin had worn the night he was killed. Since the trial began, however, the Illinois Democrat has been much more reticent.
“Congressman Rush is reserving comment until the verdict,” spokeswoman Debra Johnson said Friday in an email.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, was another vocal critic of the way the Martin killing was handled. In the weeks after the shooting, Conyers held a forum with the panel's Democrats to examine racial profiling in America – a gathering that grew into a media circus upon the arrival of Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.
Conyers has also declined to weigh in on the trial.
“He (and I imagine others) did not want to interfere with court proceedings,” Conyers spokesman Andrew Schreiber said Friday in a brief email.
Much of the silence can be attributed to the simple fact that the lawmakers already got much of what they were asking for.
The initial uproar occurred not only because Martin was shot and killed, but because Zimmerman was not immediately charged with any crime.
Indeed, one of the first congressional responses came in March of 2012, when then-CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Florida Democratic Reps. Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson – all CBC members – introduced a resolution referring to Martin's killing as a “crime” and condemning “the inconceivable fact that his killer remains free.”
Cleaver this week said that, once Zimmerman was arrested, the responsibility shifted from Congress to the courts.
“Last year, as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, we introduced a resolution calling for an investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin. The investigation has transpired and the courts are handling this matter," Cleaver said Friday in an email. “I am hopeful that the jury will reach a decision based on the evidence before them, as is their task. Because we are lawmakers, we must respect the process of our justice system.”
What self-serving sanctimony. There was no "investigation." A political decision was made in Washington to prosecute Zimmerman. The Department of Justice sent experts in "community organizing" disguised as conflict resolution specialists in order to put pressure on local authorities to act.
The Judicial Watch audio tape of a community meeting in Sanford released yesterday reveals just how serious the DoJ's intervention was:
“When Trayvon happened, for many of us, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” the man said. “We had grown up in a state and environment where race is a way of life … We’re not from Sanford, but what Sanford represented to us was the very real problems going around this state and this country. We wanted to figure out how could we stand in solidarity, and how could we make this about not just justice for Trayvon, but using this moment and using the opportunity to honor his memory, to honor his spirit by working to bring down the various structures and the various systems that allow something like this to happen.”
Does this sound like "conflict resolution" to you? Or pure, political advocacy? Conflict resolvers don't "stand in solidarity" with people on one side of the argument, nor do they seek to inflame tensions by broadening the scope of the protest in order to "bring down the various structures and the various systems that allow something like this to happen.”
The CBC no doubt put pressure on both Obama (“If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon”), and Attorney General Eric Holder ("my people"), to send out their flying squad of community interventionists to agitate for "justice for Trayvon" by any means necessary -- including ratcheting up racial tensions. I don't suppose we're going to hear anything about that from the CBC, who have done their part to intimidate and perhaps influence the jury long before George Zimmerman was put on trial.