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9:38 AM / Wednesday August 17, 2022

20 Jul 2013

As NAACP opens in Orlando, timing of Zimmerman verdict seems fateful

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July 20, 2013 Category: Stateside Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Attorney Benjamin Crump addresses the media following the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman in Seminole Circuit Court in Sanford, Fla. on Saturday, July 13, 2013.

(AP Photo/Gary W. Green, Pool)

 

By Kate Santich

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Orlando Sentinel

 

For members of the nation’s oldest civil rights group, the timing of the verdict in George Zimmerman’s murder trial seemed fateful: Just as the NAACP gathers for its first-ever national convention in Orlando, a white man was being acquitted of killing a black teen 30 miles away in what for many has been a racially charged case.

 

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, a surprise speaker at the first major session of the five-day convention, said he spoke with Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, the morning after the Zimmerman verdict came in.

 

“Sybrina said she cried, she prayed, she cried some more and then she got up and went to church that [Sunday] morning,” Crump said. “And when she came home from church, she called me up and said, ‘Mr. Crump, I will not let this verdict define Trayvon. Our community will define Trayvon Martin’s legacy … and we’ve now got to roll up our sleeves. We’ve got a long way to go so this won’t happen to anybody else’s child.”

 

Crump praised Fulton and Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, for their dignity and courage in dealing with a “tragedy laid at their doorstep.” But he also urged the crowd to “please refuse to remain silent because Sybrina and Tracy cannot do this by themselves.”

 

“If anything good is to come, this is the time to build a movement,” said national NAACP spokesman Eric Wingerter. “This [case] goes to the heart of what racial profiling is — in this case, the idea that a young black teenager is by definition a thug instead of a son just visiting his father… And that’s exactly what we need to change.”

 

Throughout the opening weekend of the convention, expected to attract 4,000 people from across the country, the case has been a cause for frustration and disgust and a rallying point for change.

 

“We have been in a state of denial over the fact this demon of racism has not been exorcised from our culture in this nation,” said the Rev. Amos Brown of San Francisco, a member of the NAACP’s national board of directors. “We’re a divided, unequal and hostile nation on the issue of race.”

 

While Zimmerman’s defense has insisted the case had nothing to do with skin color, for convention-goers, it seemed obvious that the opposite was true. At its heart, many said, were the assumptions many Americans make when they see a young black man.

 

“My son is in his 30s, he has a master’s degree and he doesn’t wear hoodies,” said Linda Durril of Virginia. “But if he’s in another environment where people don’t know his pedigree, what’s to keep him from being seen as a criminal? Your pedigree doesn’t matter if you’re a black man in America.”

 

James Muwakki of Lee County agreed — and the thought outraged him. “They portrayed him as a criminal, which is the way a lot of America sees blacks anyway.” He said. “It’s appalling. It is a bad day for justice in America.”

 

Many said the verdict didn’t surprise them, but it nonetheless came as a great disappointment.

 

Margie Harris, a Mary Kay saleswoman from Orlando, said she consoled herself with the idea that another type of justice is coming.

 

“God and the universe will give Zimmerman his justice,” she said. “If you think back on the O.J. Simpson case and Casey Anthony, their lives have not been the same [since their acquittals]. These people are not going to win in the big picture of things.”

 

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