JUSTICE DEPT. HELPED ORGANIZE ANTI-ZIMMERMAN MARCHES AND PROTESTS
NWV News Writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
July 12, 2013
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As the defense in the trial of George Zimmerman rested on Wednesday, a public-interest group acquired government documents that revealed the Department of Justice's complicity in turning the shooting and killing of a young man into a racial incident that warranted protests and demonstrations by the nation's African Americans, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
Judicial Watch officials stated that local, state, and federal records requests identified an obscure unit of the Department of Justice -- the Community Relations Service (CRS) -- which was dispatched to Sanford, Fla., following the shooting of Trayvon Martin in order to to help organize and manage rallies and protests against the shooter George Zimmerman, who claims he killed the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.
The incident and trial created a media frenzy that almost constantly highlighted the race of the deceased and that of his killer, according to former police detective Sid Franes. "Had this shooting not been seen through a racial prism, it's doubtful the trial would garner such high-profile news coverage," he said.
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Justice Department was filed by Judicial Watch on April 24, 2012 and 125 pages were received on May 30, 2012.
The non-profit, non-partisan group then appealed the request on June 5, 2012, and received an additional 222 pages on March 6, 2013.
According to the documents:
• March 25 – 27, 2012, CRS spent $674.14 upon being “deployed to Sanford, FL, to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.”
• March 25 – 28, 2012, CRS spent $1,142.84 “in Sanford, FL to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.
• March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent $892.55 in Sanford, FL “to provide support for protest deployment in Florida.”
• March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent an additional $751.60 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31.”
• April 3 – 12, 2012, CRS spent $1,307.40 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford.”
• April 11 – 12, 2012, CRS spent $552.35 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17 year old African American male.”
From a Florida Sunshine Law request filed on April 23, 2012, Judicial Watch obtained thousands of pages of emails on April 27, 2012, in which was found an email by Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board Program Officer Amy Carswell dated April 16, 2012:
“Congratulations to our partners, Thomas Battles, Regional Director, and Mildred De Robles, Miami-Dade Coordinator and their co-workers at the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service for their outstanding and ongoing efforts to reduce tensions and build bridges of understanding and respect in Sanford, Florida” following a news article in the Orlando Sentinel about the secretive “peacekeepers.”
In reply to that message, Battles said: “Thank you Partner. You did lots of stuff behind the scene to make Miami a success. We will continue to work together.” He signed the email simply Tommy.
Carswell responded: “That’s why we make the big bucks.”
Although the federal agency claims to use “impartial mediation practices and conflict resolution procedures,” press reports along with the documents obtained by Judicial Watch suggest that the unit deployed to Sanford, Fla., took an active role in working with those demanding the prosecution of Zimmerman.
On April 15, 2012, during the height of the protests, the Orlando Sentinel reported, “They [the CRS] helped set up a meeting between the local NAACP and elected officials that led to the temporary resignation of Police Chief Bill Lee according to Turner Clayton, Seminole County chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”
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According to the Orlando Sentinel, the CRS had arranged a 40-mile police escort for the students from Daytona Beach to Sanford. The college students, who called themselves the Dream Defenders, barricaded the entrance to the police station demanding Police Chief Lee be removed from office.
"These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations"
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