Trayvon Martin and the Cult of Government Supremacy
by William Norman Grigg
Nineteen days before the killing of Trayvon Martin by self-appointed block "captain" George Zimmerman, Manuel Loggins was murdered by an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy in the parking lot of San Clemente High School. Loggins, a deeply religious man, often visited the school to walk on the track and discuss the Bible with his daughters, who were with him on the morning he was murdered.
According to the most recent of several official versions of the incident, the Deputy was concerned by Loggins’ "irrational" behavior, which involved crashing through a gate and attempting to leave the scene. Even this rendering of the episode, however, doesn’t explain why a Deputy would shoot an unarmed man behind the wheel of an SUV containing two young girls.
The Deputy initially insisted that he "felt threatened" by Loggins. Within a day or so of the story becoming public, the story had undergone a critical revision: The Sheriff’s Office claimed that Loggins had to be shot in the interests of "the perceived safety of the children."
So zealous were the officers for the safety of two young girls who had just seen their father murdered in front of them that the department took them into custody held them incommunicado for thirteen hours while the official narrative was being worked out. In the words of the family’s attorney, "They just incarcerated them."
Sgt. Loggins was black; his killer, Deputy Darren Sandberg, is white – and he’s back on patrol duty, without facing criminal charges or administrative punishment of any kind. His union, displaying its customary gift for arrogant self-preoccupation, insists Loggins was entirely to blame.
"It is heartbreaking that Manuel Loggins created a situation that put his children in danger and ultimately cost him his life," oozed police union spokesperson Tom Dominguez. "It is unfortunate that his actions put his own children into immediate danger and resulted in his death."
That smarmy, dismissive statement irresistibly reminds me of the radio exchange between U.S. troops involved in the Baghdad massacre documented in the "Collateral Murder" video.
Eleven Iraqis were massacred in the unprovoked attack, and several others – including two small children – were seriously wounded.
"Well, it’s their fault for bringing kids into a battle," one of the murderers snarkily insisted when informed that small children were among the victims.
Loggins’s widow gave birth to another daughter at about the same time she buried her husband.
While this atrocity garnered a great deal of local attention, and a modest amount of national coverage, it didn’t receive the saturation coverage in which the Trayvon Martin killing has been immersed.
Neither Louis Farrakhan nor Al Sharpton reached out to the Loggins family. As a gesture of solidarity with Trayvon, the Miami Heat basketball team was photographed wearing hooded sweatshirts, the "suspicious" attire the teenager was wearing when he was chased down and shot by George Zimmerman. The Sacramento Kings abstained from a similar symbolic display of sympathy for Manuel Loggins.
Asked by a reporter to comment about the Trayvon Martin killing, Barack Obama pointed out that if he had a son, the young man might resemble Trayvon. The President has yet to be asked to comment about the murder of Manuel Loggins – who is one of two black Marines to be murdered by police within the space of three months.
Last November, 68-year-old retired Marine Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was slaughtered by police at his apartment in White Plains, New York. Chamberlain, an elderly man who suffered from a heart condition and several other ailments, was not a criminal suspect. He had inadvertently triggered a medical alert, which resulted in a visit by paramedics. The police, unfortunately, responded as well, and they quickly displayed their infallible gift for making matters worse.
Chamberlain ordered the police to leave. That was a lawful order the police are required to obey. They didn’t. Instead, the dozen officers who had formed a thugscrum outside Chamberlain’s door taunted and mocked the elderly man, eventually breaking down the door and invading his home.
Once inside, the police were confronted by a terrified old man who – as documented in video recovered from a Taser – was clad in boxer shorts, with his hands at his side. This dreadful specter was enough to trigger the "Officer Safety" reflex – practically anything will – and the heroes in blue shot him with a Taser and a beanbag gun before gunning him down.
The original story was that Chamberlain "came at the officers" with a butcher knife and – I’m not kidding – a hatchet. His son points out that his father’s heart was so weak that he couldn’t walk more than forty feet without resting. The initial account is difficult to reconcile with the footage captured by the Taser and security cameras. Furthermore, even if the old man had lunged at the cops, they had the duty to retreat: They had no legal or moral right to be in the home, and Chamberlain had the legal and moral right to evict them by force.
Long after the incident, the police rationalized that the invasion was necessary because they weren’t sure whether "anybody else inside was in danger." This is a matter that could have been cleared up through use of an obscure piece of technology called a telephone, a remarkable instrument that could have been used to contact either Mr. Chamberlain or his son, who didn’t live far away. But this would have deprived the armored adolescents on the police force of an opportunity to bust down a door and impose themselves on someone who couldn’t fight back.
In his self-appointed role as watchman, George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin's killer, has perceived practically every black male – on one occasion, a child he described as "7-9 years old" – as suspicious.
Predictably, Martin’s family believes that Zimmerman acted on bigoted motives. In the case of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., however, there is material evidence of racism at work: Recordings of the standoff captured racial epithets, including the "n-word," hurled at the harmless old man by some of the officers involved in murdering him just a few minutes later.
Nevertheless, the Tolerance Police – for some reason – haven’t made the slaughter of Kenneth Chamberlain a cause celebre.
One much-remarked detail in the killing of Trayvon Martin is the fact that the supposedly suspicious teenager was "armed" with Skittles and a can of iced tea. This summons memories of Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old from Pittsburgh who was nearly beaten to death on the street near his grandmother’s house two years ago.
His assailants claimed that Miles struck them as "suspicious" because he fled at their approach, and that they feared for their lives when he appeared to be armed. It turns out that his concealed "weapon" was a bottle of Mountain Dew, an admittedly toxic substance but one harmful only if taken internally.
Miles, who stands 5’6" and weighs about 160 pounds, was swarmed by three large adult males, who slugged him, kicked him, and beat him with a club improvised from a tree branch.
The attackers were police officers, who weren’t prosecuted or subjected to administrative punishment. As is customary whenever a Mundane is left bloody by the ministrations of the State’s high priests of coercion, Miles was charged with "aggravated assault," which presumably took the form of flailing his arms while bleeding on his sanctified assailants.
When those charges were dismissed, the police union – in a typical fit of corrupt petulance – conducted a mass "sick-out" as a protest. This had the unintended, if short-lived, effect of making Pittsburgh’s streets just a little safer. The crime committed against Jordan Miles was quickly forgotten, and the victim’s family recently received a trivial, tax-subsidized settlement from the City of Pittsburgh. Once again: This episode, which offers several strong points of similarity to the Trayvon Martin killing, didn’t ignite a nation-wide firestorm of media outrage.
Every week – perhaps every day – innocent young black men are beaten and killed by armed strangers who act with impunity, and often in circumstances quite similar to those in which Trayvon Martin was killed. The perpetrators of those assaults are police officers, and not all of them are white. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man of Latino ancestry, was a self-commissioned "captain" in a Neighborhood Watch program with which he had no formal affiliation.
For some reason the Sanford Police Department saw fit to treat him like a cop by granting him the kind of "qualified immunity" usually afforded only to fully accredited members of the exalted brotherhood of state-sanctioned violence. This might have something to do with the fact that Zimmerman, the son of a retired magistrate judge, had previously attended a "Community Police Academy" sponsored by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
Zimmerman’s actions would be understandable – not justifiable, but understandable – if he had absorbed the contemporary police doctrine that anything other than immediate, unqualified submission constitutes a "threat" to "officer safety." The Sanford PD’s decision to accept his account at face value is more difficult to understand – and more difficult still to defend in light of the fact that this is not the only recent episode in which they have refused to charge someone who assaulted an unarmed man.
Justin Collison, the son of a Sanford police lieutenant, was recently captured on camera sucker-punching a man to the back of the head outside a bar. The victim – who had been trying to break up a fight – had no chance to defend himself, and suffered a broken nose when his face struck a light pole. Despite having both video and eyewitness evidence of a deliberate act of aggravated assault, the police declined to arrest Collison (who had reportedly assaulted two others during a drunken rampage), and no charges were filed.
Apparently, the Sanford PD employs a "sliding scale" of some kind when dealing with such matters. However, the preferred media narrative focuses on the supposed iniquity of a Florida law recognizing the natural right to self-defense.
Civilian disarmament advocates have implicated Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law in Trayvon Martin killing. The Sanford Police have refused to charge Zimmerman, insisting that "under the law, it had no call to bring charges," reported the New York Times.
Enacted in 2005, Florida’s "Justifiable Use of Force" statute (Title XLVI, Chapter 776) recognizes that an individual has the natural right to use deadly force when confronting the threat of "death or great bodily harm" from an intruder or an aggressor. This does not apply when "The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in … [a] dwelling, residence, or vehicle," or if the individual who employed the defensive force "is engaged in an unlawful activity…."
Martin, an unarmed teenager with no criminal record, was headed to his father’s home in the Miami Gardens gated community. Although he was described by Zimmerman to the police as a "suspicious individual," Martin had an unqualified legal right to be where he was.
In his 911 call, Zimmerman told a police dispatcher that "There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something…. These a**holes always get away." Zimmerman actively pursued Martin, after being specifically instructed that this was unnecessary.
When Martin noticed Zimmerman, the teenager – who was speaking to a girlfriend via cellphone – made reference to being ".... hounded by a strange man on a cellphone who ran after him, cornered him, and confronted him," as summarized in an ABC News report.
"Why are you following me?" Martin asked Zimmerman. A few moments later, Zimmerman shot Martin with his 9 millimeter handgun. Several witnesses reported hearing the teenager cry for help before the shot was fired.
"They’re wrestling right in the back of my porch," one witness told a police dispatcher. "The guy’s yelling help and I’m not going out."
For some reason, police investigating the matter "corrected" one key witness, a local schoolteacher, by insisting that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who had cried for help.
In addition to "correcting" one eyewitness, the Sanford PD pointedly ignored the testimony of Martin’s girlfriend, to whom the victim expressed his own fears about the unidentified man who was stalking him.
Zimmerman’s original story, as summarized by the Miami Herald, was that “he had stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on when [Martin] attacked him from behind as he walked back to his truck.” Subsequent leaks from the police department reported that Zimmerman claims to have been knocked down and seriously injured in a fight with Martin, and that he shot the teenager “because he feared for his life.” An anonymous witness confirmed seeing the two of them struggling, and Zimmerman apparently getting the worst of it – and then seeing the prone figure of Martin following the shooting.
How did the fight begin? Zimmerman’s account, as made available through second-hand sources, is that Martin pursued him to his SUV and then lunged at him when Zimmerman reached for his cell phone. He insists that the unarmed and demonstrably frightened teenager he confronted – after being explicitly instructed not to – was the aggressor. Interestingly, he made a very similar claim seven years ago in response to a domestic violence petition filed by his ex-fiancee.
In her court filing, the woman claimed that Zimmerman had visited her home in Orlando to demand documents from her. When she ordered him to leave her property, Zimmerman allegedly insisted on staying, then he grabbed her cellphone and shoved her and a fight ensued. He filed a petition of his own claiming that she had been the aggressor, claiming that she had struck him in the face. She blamed the injuries on her dog. Both of them acknowledged that their relationship had been plagued with violence – and each of them was granted a restraining order against the other.
That earlier account may be crucial here because it strongly indicates that Zimmerman, whatever else can be said about him, doesn’t understand the non-aggression principle and is in the habit of creating unnecessary conflicts and escalating them to the point of physical violence. And it is the non-aggression principle – not the politics of racial collectivism – that is the most important question in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee – who has been compelled to resign, perhaps temporarily – pronounced that he was satisfied with Zimmerman’s version of the incident, moving quickly to wrap up the case because "there is no evidence to dispute the shooter’s claim of self-defense." The police released him without testing him for drugs or alcohol.
Zimmerman, who was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer in 2005 – has called the police to report "suspicious" black males 46 times since January 2011. Neighbors have described him as "fixated on crime" and have complained about his "aggressive tactics."
An aggressor, of course, isn’t "standing his ground." During the February 26 incident, Zimmerman pursued Martin, who had a legal right to be where he was. By creating the confrontation, Zimmerman was the aggressor. He had both the moral and legal duty to retreat, rather than to escalate the confrontation by employing force of any kind.
Florida’s self-defense law, like similar statutes elsewhere, makes an exception for law enforcement officers. Although he was not employed by a police department and not an official member of the volunteer neighborhood watch, Zimmerman clearly considered himself to be acting in a law enforcement capacity.
According to ABC News, "The Sanford Police Department says it stands by its investigation, and that it was not race or incompetence that prevented it from arresting Zimmerman but the law." Under the terms of the Florida state statutes, however, Zimmerman most likely committed an act of criminal homicide, not justified self-defense. Yet the civilian disarmament lobby – most likely working in collaboration with police unions – moved quickly to implicate the "Stand Your Ground" law in the killing.
Police unions, the civilian disarmament lobby, and the state-centric media all subscribe to the idea that the government should have a monopoly on the use of force. This is why they oppose "stand your ground" and "castle doctrine" laws recognizing the individual right to armed self-defense.
The opposition of police unions has become particularly acute in recent months as they have lobbied against "castle doctrine" laws in Minnesota and Indiana that explicitly recognize the natural right of citizens to use lethal force against police officers who unlawfully invade their property or threaten their lives.
Yes, the familiar cast of prejudice profiteers and racial ambulance chasers – who failed to be moved by the racially charged police murders of Manuel Loggins and Kenneth Chamberlain – has helped turn the killing of Trayvon Martin into a public works project. But the ideology that has propelled this issue to the top of the media agenda isn’t a variant of racial collectivism: It is the even more murderous doctrine of government supremacism, under which Zimmerman’s lethal actions would be considered entirely appropriate if he had been swaddled in a State-issued costume.
Within six months we should see a plethora of bills – supported by a coalition that includes the Brady Campaign and police unions – bearing Trayvon Martin's name, all of which will seek the repeal of "Castle Doctrine" and "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws.
William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.
Copyright © 2012 William Norman Grigg
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