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Vigilantism Killed Trayvon Martin

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Let me offer my two cents on the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. My one special qualification is that I've taken part in a watch in a neighborhood far more crime-ridden than Zimmerman's Twin Lakes. They had seven or eight break-ins among 260 units? Not so bad.

   I lived four years in a Third World country, in a fenced neighborhood under siege, where steel bars guarded windows, where I had reinforced the doors of our house and took several parts of our car inside at night to prevent its being stolen. Despite the many precautions, the house was burgled once, and another time I picked broken glass off my little daughter, who went on sleeping after a thrown rock shattered the window by her bed.  

   As break-ins became more frequent, we chipped in and hired night guards to walk along the chain-link fence that surrounded the neighborhood. We took shifts with the patrols just in case they had friends on the other side.

   We were not vigilantes. If we saw trouble, we alerted the neighbors and called the police. Never did we follow anyone, even though we often saw real threats. If we had followed, there would have been trouble and possibly deaths. We dialogued with people in the nearby settlement where most of the would-be burglars appeared to live. We did not carry guns. Our efforts did not eliminate crime, but did reduce it.

   The watch group in Mr. Zimmerman's neighborhood has similar policies, but he was on his own that night. Acting on instinct he decided that Trayvon Martin was looking around too much and walking the wrong path. Whether or not race played a part, there is something very wrong in his assertion to a police dispatcher, made with reference to Martin, "These a**holes they always get away."

   With no good reason Zimmerman was convinced, wrongly and tragically as it turns out, that Martin was a criminal and only George Zimmerman could head off trouble.

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  From http://www.flickr.com/photos/7278633@N04/9296077925/: Florida's Stand Your Ground Law
Florida's Stand Your Ground Law by The Eyes Of New York
The enemy is vigilantism, the spread of the idea that Americans should take unilateral and violent action in protecting themselves and their families. Crime is down, few Americans will ever experience terrorism, but more citizens are going out armed every year. Laws are encouraging the trend by passing stand-your-ground laws. Zimmerman believed he could do the job of protecting better than the police.

   Despite what Zimmerman's backers claim, Florida's law has everything to do with his going free. Zimmerman's side argued self-defense, but without SYG, self-defense absolves the threatened person only if he or she had no opportunity to retreat. Zimmerman did the opposite.

    SYG laws are extensions of castle laws, only now any armed person takes a portable castle with them. In Florida they can take risks and enjoy the same legal protection that police have. While police have to pursue suspects, the George Zimmermans of this world do not. The police have training, the George Zimmermans of this world do not.

   African-Americans should not be out in the streets over the Zimmerman verdict, everyone should be, not out of solidarity, but to protest laws that reinforce the miasma of hate and fear spreading across America.

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Dan Vasey is a home brewer and reformed academic, living in Australia and retired from teaching after stints in Colorado, Papua New Guinea and Iowa. An anthropologist and human ecologist, his research specialty has been population and agriculture. (more...)
 

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Despite the ramblings of one juror, I do not place... by Daniel Vasey on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 11:24:06 AM
Blame the cops who didn't arrest GZ.  They di... by Richard Pietrasz on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:19:04 PM
YES the jury, they got it right.  SYG didn't ... by Natalie Oberman on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:44:24 PM
The basis of this piece is not true.Vigilantism is... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 12:47:44 PM
Taking the law into your own hands is what vigilan... by Adam Smith on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 1:21:24 PM
If you see a baby in a burning car and call 911 th... by David Budden on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:38:16 PM
You are leaving out that Police didnt tell him any... by David Budden on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:53:18 PM
The dispatcher said they didn't need him following... by Adam Smith on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 4:09:33 PM
Adam what makes everything perfectly clear is to l... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 5:28:11 PM
The author of this piece got it right.  If Ge... by Sara Cope on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 1:22:58 PM
POLICE NEVER GAVE HIM ANY ORDER, it was a non-emer... by David Budden on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:42:12 PM
A few points from the first 9-11 call - George Zim... by Diane V. McLoughlin on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 4:48:38 PM
and put it all in context with a tad bit of common... by Doc McCoy on Monday, Jul 22, 2013 at 12:30:09 AM
Vigiliantism is illegal. And when you do something... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:04:08 PM
And people fail to see that if Trayvon wasn't dead... by David Budden on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:45:06 PM
A non-professional carrying a gun is hampered in a... by Hugh Jones on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:50:16 PM
amen... by Daniel Vasey on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 4:47:56 PM
It's obvious from the response to this and other p... by Daniel Vasey on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 4:47:14 PM
Vigilantism did NOT kill Trayvon Martin. Liberalis... by Larry Hooten on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 5:13:45 PM
What aspect of liberalism are you talking about? C... by Adam Smith on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 8:32:10 PM
I realize many Americans can't think too well, let... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 5:31:59 PM
finding the misery of others "funny," according to... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 5:36:40 PM
I doubt that anyone will care if you leave.... by Ronald J Riley on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 6:34:36 PM
Geery's been an important contributor for a long t... by Adam Smith on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 8:36:42 PM
appears to be being used as the only option availa... by Doc McCoy on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 8:53:32 PM
was "funny"? You have lost any respect I had ... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 9:43:43 PM
You submitted the piece.  It was a direct quo... by Doc McCoy on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:35:39 AM
lacked the reading skills to read it, is herewith ... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 3:55:00 PM
"Martin was a criminal" The minute he assaulte... by Ronald J Riley on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 6:16:15 PM
You don't seem likely to have a reasonable doubt.... by BFalcon on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:34:33 AM
understanding your stance; seems we experienced tw... by molly cruz on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:57:37 PM
What we have is a nation in fear. Concealed weapon... by Art Costa on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 6:53:48 PM
Man kudos on that comment! Good one!So we are prog... by Bill Johnson on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 7:18:22 PM
My local TV station runs an ad frequently, with a ... by molly cruz on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 7:45:33 PM
I do not recall reading about a wanted person bein... by Doc McCoy on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 1:17:44 AM
before there are statistics to support that encour... by molly cruz on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 1:01:59 PM
From HUFF POST July 21, 2013 by Trymaine LeeZimmer... by Deborah Dills on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 11:55:38 PM
Instead of restraining order the fiancee just shot... by BFalcon on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:37:10 AM
All of the events mentioned occurred 7 or more yea... by Doc McCoy on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 1:24:53 AM
Yeah well, what if Martin's much more recent past ... by Natalie Oberman on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 1:28:46 PM
I suppose I shouldn't be shocked by all of the nam... by Sara Cope on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:16:23 PM
We are faced with a divisive nation, lack of under... by Art Costa on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:22:47 PM
Black on black crime is rampant.  It is a vir... by Ronald J Riley on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 2:18:03 PM
Signed into law in Florida via Jeb Bush. Eric Hold... by Rixar13 on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 8:11:06 PM
Signed into law in Florida via Jeb Bush. Eric Hold... by Rixar13 on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 8:11:50 PM