August 17th 2013

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Both leaders coy about levelling with the voters

EDITORIAL: What the federal election comes down to...

RURAL AFFAIRS: Behind the explosion of farm debt over the last 30 years

SOCIETY: Same-sex couples a tiny percentage of households

RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS: Conscience rights banished by our political elites

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Treasurer's fantasy of a budget surplus by 2016/17

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Victory for real marriage in SA

SOCIETY: Our children's lives invaded by sleaze

CHILD DEVELOPMENT: Equipping our young to cope with suffering and loss

CHINA: Have China's rulers forfeited the 'Mandate of Heaven'?

UNITED STATES: US government persecutes Zimmerman family

CULTURE AND CIVILISATION: Solzhenitsyn and the Russian renaissance


BOOK REVIEW: Low-life or lovable larrikin?

BOOK REVIEW: Intriguing blend of Christian themes, Arthurian legends and time travel

CINEMA: In defence of our humanity

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US government persecutes Zimmerman family

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, August 17, 2013

It was reported recently that George Zimmerman, the part-Hispanic neighbourhood watch leader acquitted by a jury in the US of killing a black youth, Trayvon Martin, has, with his family, been receiving death-threats electronically at the rate of up to 400 per minute.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail: “George Zimmerman’s brother today revealed their family receive as many as 400 death threats a minute on social media sites and said he almost got beaten up by two Starbucks’ employees.

“Three weeks after his brother was acquitted of all charges relating to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Robert Zimmerman reveals for the first time the psychological impact it has had on the family — who live under constant fear and have to keep in touch 24/7.

“‘No one has really asked us to get into the psychological aspect of this,’ he said. ‘You don’t know if someone stops you in public and says, “excuse me sir”, you don’t know if you dropped your wallet or if someone recognises you and wants to kill you. I think the whole ordeal has taught us to rely on one another. But it taxes everyone’s mind, knowing you have to stay in touch and in constant communication because of the threats’.” (Daily Mail, UK, August 2, 2013).

There are a number of things to be said about this. Despite the jury’s finding of innocence (and also, despite the most scathing criticism by experts of allegedly vindictive and unethical prosecution tactics), the lives of George Zimmerman and his family have been ruined. They will never feel safe again.

Brandon Darby of Breitbart News reports: “The situation only worsened after the verdict. ‘We all have the same concerns as before. We are all concerned about our safety,’ said Zimmerman. But still, the Zimmerman family chooses to be constructive and stand together. Zimmerman said their main focus is: ‘Are we doing everything to stay alive at home, and if any of us have to leave, are we doing everything we can to support each other?’

“The Zimmermans’ concerns are not without merit. The family receives death threats and has to monitor social media and events to determine when they are in less danger or when they can possibly go to the store.

“‘We have to monitor social media and the internet to see if there are any rallies nearby that pose a specific threat and we avoid them,’ said Zimmerman. ‘The death threats usually come on social media, some are emailed. There’s a lot of “you better watch your back, I know where u are, I’m going to get you.’” (Breitbart News, July 31, 2013).

Zimmerman had apparently acted in self-defence when attacked by Trayvon Martin, who had a minor criminal record. There has been no even remotely comparable outcry — in fact, virtually no outcry at all — about the massive rate of black-on-black murder in US cities.

A conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, has accused the US Justice Department, under Attorney-General and far-left Obama ally Eric Holder, of actually helping manage the “pressure campaign” last year against George Zimmerman while the trial was in progress, citing documents that show an obscure agency spent thousands of dollars assisting local anti-Zimmerman demonstrations.

The little-known agency, the Community Relations Service (CRS), is described by the Justice Department as its “peacemaker” for community conflicts over race.

The protests last spring over Martin’s death certainly qualified as such a conflict. But while the department claims its “peacemaker” agency does not “take sides” in such disputes, Judicial Watch said the documents and public accounts show otherwise.

“These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said.

The documents, which the group has since published online, show the CRS agency filing a series of expenses incurred during the late March and early April demonstrations.

One filing from late March recorded $674 in expenses for its deployment to Sanford, Florida, to “work marches, demonstrations and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighbourhood watch captain”.

That description could only apply to the Trayvon Martin killing, for which Zimmerman was then on trial. The heated protests and national media attention helped build the pressure last year for Zimmerman’s arrest. He had not initially been charged after claiming self-defence — a claim police accepted.

When asked for comment, Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson said, “The Community Relations Service was in Sanford, Florida, fulfilling their mandated mission.”

A Justice Department official also told Fox News that the unit was only in Sanford to support local efforts aimed at “reducing tensions and the potential for violence”.

The filings by the Justice Department agency detailing their involvement are all similar. They mostly cite work providing “support” and “technical assistance” for organisers and law-enforcement agencies, as well as “onsite mediation” (Fox News, July 10, 2013).

Judicial Watch, in claiming the agency crossed a line by aiding the anti-Zimmerman events, points to an April article in the Orlando Sentinel.

That article detailed the role the CRS unit played during the protests. In another article, it was alleged they arranged an escort for college students for a 40-mile march to “demand justice”. One church leader was quoted as saying, “They were there for us.”

But it is not clear from the article whether the unit’s involvement crossed the line from mediation to advocacy. The article generally described the CRS’s role as teaching civil-rights organisers how to manage crowds and ease tensions. An agency official said their goal was to “build local capacity to deal with these issues” (Orlando Sentinel, April 15, 2012).

The Justice Department did not respond to requests from Fox News for comment on the Judicial Watch documents.

The most shocking aspect of this affair is the way in which President Obama and other very senior Democrat and public figures like the Revd Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Eric Holder himself, far from trying to defuse the issue, appear to have been egging on racial and community hatred and the persecution of the Zimmermans.

It is true that Obama has not done this himself in quite so many words; but his comments, identifying himself with Trayvon Martin, leave no room for doubt as to what he means.

On July 19, six days after the verdict, he gave an impromptu 20-minute speech in the White House press room in which he said that “Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago”. He also said that black men in the United States (himself included, before he had become a senator) commonly suffer racial profiling.

It is further confirmation that the President of the United States simply does not understand the rules of law and his own duties — or else he is prepared (to use his own metaphor) to throw them under a bus.

This is setting a frightening precedent: the President of the United States is apparently condoning a vendetta against an individual not only found innocent by the court — and who is neither a political rival nor a threat — but an ordinary, humble working man and his family. Zimmerman is, moreover, a registered Democrat with an anti-racist record.

It appears to be of a piece with the overwhelming evidence that under Obama the Internal Revenue Service has been used strategically against the Tea Party and other conservative political groups.

If it is to be taken as a precedent for future presidential behaviour, it is both shocking and ominous. The absolute adamantine maxim of the leader of the American democracy should be to govern without fear or favour.

Put another way, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government must be absolutely separate. Anything else strikes at the very heart of the values upon which America was built, and upon which the survival and freedoms of the Western world depend.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman himself was reported as having recently helped rescue a family from a car-wreck. The people he saved are reported to be in hiding lest they attract vicarious wrath.

Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer. 

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