With a secret grand jury slated to convene in less than 24-hours to finally weigh evidence in the Trayvon Martin shooting death, the city of Sanford stood at unease early Monday, as one instance after another simultaneously gave clearer pause and illustration to just how grippingly polarizing the 17-year-old unarmed Florida teen’s senseless and mournful slaying at the hands of a gun-toting, hot-tempered volunteer crime watchman has now become.
A recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that 73 percent of all blacks believe confessed triggerman George Zimmerman should have already been arrested and charged by now, while only 33 percent of whites surveyed shared similar feelings.
Fueling the flames of racial strife even more, Zimmerman lead attorney Hal Uhrig spent much of the weekend pointing accusatory fingers of race-baiting in the unapologetic direction of Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton—fellow Martin family supporters— even as he himself took to the Fox News airwaves and the Sean Hannity Show to subliminally transmit indisputable buzz words.
“We’ve heard a rush to judgment in this case that started, I guess, with Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson,” Uhrig, a former Gainesville police officer told Hannity. “George Zimmerman has been the victim here… he had every right to defend himself and act in the way that he did.”
Uhrig might be hard pressed in convincing many of his college-aged neighbors of such rationale. For much of the extended Easter holiday weekend, students from Bethune-Cookman University and other universities took to the streets for a three-day, 50-mile protest walk from nearby Daytona Beach to Sanford to voice their concerns and anger over the way the case has been handled.
Calling themselves the “Dream Defenders,” the demonstrators also marked the occasion by paying homage to the peaceful ways of Dr. Martin Luther King and the memory of the somewhat similarly themed march he once led civil rights activist on from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Their logo features an image of King wearing a hoodie.
Trayvon Martin died on the night of Feb. 26 of a single gunshot blast to the chest after being confronted by the 28-year-old Zimmerman, who later admitted to police he confronted the unsuspecting teen after he thought him “suspicious” because he was wearing a hoodie and walking at a leisurely pace.
Zimmerman, the son of a former federal magistrate father and long-term local court clerk mother, has yet to be charged in the shooting and maintains he only acted in self-defense, even though audio from 911 calls made that night clearly capture him defying a direct police command to cease with following the teen well before any encounter between the two could even materialize.
According to Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin attacked him, blooding and breaking his nose, wrestled him to the ground and repeatedly beat his head on the concrete to the point he nearly passed out. As news of the incident has spread, rallies and protests have been commonplace all across Florida and much of the nation, many of them demanding and crying out for justice for the fallen teen.
“We plan to keep on escalating things until we get justice for Trayvon,” Sharpton decried at an earlier event. “Understand when we say escalate, we don’t mean anything in the way of violence,” said Sharpton. “Even now the only violence in all this has been perpetrated by George Zimmerman.”
And yet, throughout the weekend the fear of more violence is what seemed to most consume many. A heavily armed troop of Neo-Nazis have arrived in Sanford promising to protect “white citizens in the area who are concerned with safety.”
Members of the National Socialist Movement are now walking the streets near the home of Trayvon Martin’s father’s Twin Lakes Retreat gated community home proclaiming how they are prepared for the violence of a potential race riot.
“We’re not the kind of white people who are going to be walked all over,” said Jeff Schoep, identified as the group commander of the Detroit-based organization.
Of nearly equal concern are reports controversial, Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones might be headed for Sanford to likewise show his support for Zimmerman. Jones, from the nearby Gainesville town where Uhrig was once a police officer, created a firestorm late last spring when he publicly torched a copy of the Muslim holy book.
Prior to all that, members of the so-called new Black Panther Party announced they had placed on a $10,000 bounty for the capture of George Zimmerman. Certainly, not aiding the far more practical overall state of race relations is news this weekend that a string of unprovoked shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma may all be race-related.
Five innocent victims, all of them black males, were shot early Saturday in a window within a few minutes and miles of each other and thus far, a pair of white males—one of them who had only recently posted racially charged comments on his Facebook page— have been charged. As of the day of this report, three of the victims have already perished and another two were critically wounded.
In the face of it all, special prosecutor Angela Corey, ponders if she— assigned and empowered by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to work independently of the grand jury— will elect to circumvent the entire process and directly move to file charges against the twice-before arrested Zimmerman.
During the Hannity Show taping, Uhrig perhaps tipped his hand a bit as to what his defense might be, if and when, his client ever faces such a day reckoning at the judgment of his peers.
“Many people remember the case of Liam Nesson’s wife, who fell on a little ski slope, hit her head one time on the ground and died,” said Uhrig.
“We’re familiar with shaken baby syndrome. You shake a baby, the brain shakes around inside the skull and you can die.”
Preposterous? Benjamin Crump elects not to ponficate. “To assure justice for Trayvon Martin, we’re looking to try this case in a court of law… and that all starts with an arrest of George Zimmerman.”