BY JAMES HARPER
The “Justice for Trayvon” rally that attracted hundreds of Daytonans to the Fifth District Court of Appeal on Beach Street last Saturday is just the beginning of protests for those upset with the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
Dr. L. Ronald Durham, president of the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance and pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist Church, announced at Saturday’s rally that a forum is scheduled on July 25 to bring together leaders in law enforcement, local and county government, civil rights, business, and clergy.
“We will not tolerate what happened in Sanford to happen in our city,” Durham said.
The Black Clergy Alliance, along with the local NAACP, will host the July 25 forum, scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Ready to discuss next step
In a news release issued this week, Durham added, “This community forum is the next step in where we go in educating the community on ways we can address how young men and women respond if ever finding themselves in a situation similar to what happened to Trayvon Martin.
“We are delighted that there has been tremendous support from citizens of all races and ethnicities to finding solutions to prevent similar tragedies here in Volusia County.’’
The decision by five White women and one Hispanic woman to acquit Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed Trayvon Martin has not only galvanized residents of Daytona Beach but countless others in cities across the nation. More than 100 cities held “Justice for Trayvon’’ vigils last weekend, organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network.
‘Jim Crow is still alive’
Durham said the not-guilty verdict has proven to be more powerful than a guilty verdict.
“The system of justice failed Trayvon and his family,” he said noting, that it took a national outcry – 46 days after Zimmerman killed Trayvon on Feb. 26, 2012 – before an arrest was made.
Durham blamed Zimmerman’s prosecutors for the outcome of the case, saying they “put on a case many found wanting.’’
“Jim Crow has raised his ugly head. Jim Crow is still alive today – James Crow esquire, Durham said. He noted that the purpose of Saturday’s rally was to show the Department of Justice there is support for it to bring civil rights violation charges against Zimmerman, who allegedly racially profiled Martin.
Officers’ actions questioned
Durham also noted that during the forum they will discuss the actions of Volusia County Beach Safety Officer Todd Snipes.
Among the allegations against Snipes is that he posted on Facebook after Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict: “Another thug gone. Pull up your pants and act respectful.”
The Black Clergy Alliance is calling for the Volusia County Council to immediately fire Snipes for his actions after it was announced July 13 that Zimmerman was acquitted.
“It is truly a disgrace that someone can be that insensitive to the death of another human being. Mr. Snipes knows nothing about Trayvon Martin nor the tremendous grief of his family. In his position as a Volusia County Safety Officer, it causes one to wonder how he would respond to an emergency that involved someone who is African-American, or of any other minority group. This cannot be the kind of individual that we employ to serve our community,” Durham said in a press release.
“To allow him to be suspended with pay is questionable as well,” Durham continued.
Dialogue on trial, other issues
Durham concluded, “In light of the tremendous uproar over the George Zimmerman verdict across the entire nation, it’s hard to fathom how a local member of the Volusia County law enforcement community could make statements, and send communication to others inside and outside law enforcement as is alleged in the case of Mr. Snipes.
“It goes to show why a forum like this is so necessary because without dialogue we will continue to perpetuate these stereotypes that do nothing but inflame the community.’’
Slater, in the same press release, stated that the forum should “provide an opportunity for the community to begin dialogue on the many issues that African-Americans and other minorities experience on a daily basis as it relates to the systemic injustices in this country.
“We as a people have to be able to speak honestly about race relations and how it has affected our communities, and come up with some positive solutions to these problems.”
Slater: Register to vote
Slater also spoke at Saturday’s rally at the Fifth District Court of Appeal on Beach Street.
She noted that the local NAACP gets calls every day from people complaining about the Daytona Beach Police Department.
“It looks like we have regressed 50 years. We must register to vote, show our power. Vote people out who created these laws, get them out of office from the top,” she said.
“This thing is bigger than Trayvon Martin. We shall not be moved,” she concluded.
Volusia County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack supported Slater’s call for those who are upset about the verdict to register to vote.
Cusack: Keep fighting
Cusack, who was a Florida state representative before being elected to the County Council in 2010, remembered being in Tallahassee in 2005 when the “stand your ground” law was passed by a Republican controlled House and Senate.
Cusack, a Democrat, voted against the law which she said gives people “the right to kill folks.”
She added, “I’m tired of seeing my folks being mistreated. Justice will prevail. Maybe not in my lifetime, but it will prevail. We have to keep fighting. We can make a difference.
“It’s all by design. They don’t want you to vote. The only power we have is at voting booth. They know that. Your vote count,” she concluded.
Taylor: Repeal law
State Rep. Dwayne Taylor, who now represents Daytona Beach in Tallahassee, told the crowd at the rally that he was going to file a bill during the next session to repeal the stand your ground law.
“The problem with the law is if somebody feels threated they can get a gun out and kill you. (You) can’t take a gun to a fistfight,” said Taylor, which is what Zimmerman is said to have done.
Pastors weigh in
The Rev. John Long of Tubman-King Community Church reminded protesters on Saturday that Blacks are being profiled regardless of their education, status or age.
“We want to declare the death of profiling,” he said.
The Rev. Derrick Harris of Master’s Domain Church of God In Christ moved to Daytona Beach from Miami to attend Bethune-Cookman University. He opened a barbershop and eventually started his church. The murder of Martin, who also was from Miami, was “personal for me,” he said.
“He didn’t have an opportunity to have children, grandchildren. He could have been president. It’s not about standing your ground, but him (Zimmerman) staying in his car,” Harris said.
Jury mix mattered
Attorney Eddie Bell also spoke to the crowd. Bell, who was a law school classmate of Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara, said he didn’t want to expose his client by having him cross-examined during the trial.
Zimmerman won’t have the option if civil charges are brought.
“He is not immune (from testifying) during a civil right action. The federal government can bring (civil rights charges) if they dig hard enough,” Bell said. noting he wasn’t surprised by the verdict.
“The case was decided when they had five Whites and one in-between juror,” he said, referring the one juror who was described as a Hispanic/Black.