Monday, July 15, 2013

In wake of Zimmerman verdict, Obama says nation must confront “tide of gun violence.”

The aftermath of the Saturday evening acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin is receiving saturation coverage, with ABC devoting nearly half of its Sunday evening newscast to the story, and NBC giving it more than six minutes of screen time. (CBS was pre-empted Sunday evening.) The trial was also a prime subject on the Sunday morning talk shows, with most elected officials offering perfunctory statements regarding respecting the results of the judicial process but some suggesting that Justice Department action may be appropriate. While the NAACP is calling for a Federal hate crime probe of Zimmerman’s actions, and the DOJ is reactivating its investigation, several reports say the legal bar may be too high for a Federal case.

        In its opening story, ABC World News reported that “outside the courtroom and at demonstrations across the country, an outpouring of sorrow, some believing justice was not served, others saying they felt for Trayvon Martin’s parents but that jurors did follow the law. And President Obama saying tonight, ‘We are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.’”

        The AP (7/14) reports President Obama said Martin’s death “was a tragedy for America,” but asked “that all Americans respect the call for calm reflection. There have been a number of rallies and protests, most of which have been peaceful.” USA Today (7/15, Korte, 1.71M) reports the President, in a statement posted on the White House website, said, “We are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.” Obama “also used the occasion to renew his call for gun safety legislation, saying, ‘We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives.’”

        McClatchy (7/15, Kumar) reports the President said, “We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”

        The Christian Science Monitor (7/15, Knickerbocker, 47K) notes that up to this point, the President’s “only notable comment” on the case came early last year “when he said, ‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.’” Reuters (7/14, Wulfhorst, Liston), the Los Angeles Times (7/15, Rojas, 692K), the Washington Times (7/15, Boyer, 76K), and Politico (7/15, Summers, 25K) also have brief reports on the President’s statement.

        DOJ restarts investigation; NAACP seeks Federal action. NBC Nightly News said in its lead report that Martin’s death “almost 17 months ago opened up emotional questions about racial profiling and about a person’s right to defend themselves. It also sparked spirited demands for justice.” ABC World News says the question of whether the DOJ will take action became more prominent Sunday after the NAACP launched an online petition. ABC senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas said, “The Justice Department has very narrow jurisdiction in terms of bringing such a case. They have to prove that racial discrimination and racism played a role in all the acts leading up to the death of Trayvon Martin. That’s a high bar.”

        NAACP President/CEO Ben Jealous said on CBS’ Face The Nation, “We hope that once everything has happened that can happen here in Florida, because the DOJ often waits until the end, that DOJ will act and will hold Mr. Zimmerman accountable for what he has done. … What you have to do there is show that race was a factor in his decisionmaking. And there seems to be plenty of evidence that suggest that race may have been a factor.” Jealous said on CNN’s State Of The Union, “There were comments made – I don’t think we want to retry it here, but the reality is that his comments are ‘these punks always get away,’ comments by young black boys in that neighborhood felt like he kind of zeros them out give people concern.”

        The AP (7/15) reports that the Justice Department “says it is looking into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin” to “determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case.” Noting that the department “opened an investigation into Martin’s death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed,” the AP adds that in a Sunday statement, the department “said the criminal section of the civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida are continuing to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal probe, in addition to the evidence and testimony from the state trial.”

        The Wall Street Journal (7/15, Campo-Flores, Subscription Publication, 2.29M) reports that an unnamed source said Holder plans to address the Zimmerman case at a speech before the NAACP in Orlando, FL, on Tuesday.

        Martin supporters engage in mostly peaceful demonstrations across US. On ABC World News, Gio Benitez reported, “Trayvon Martin’s supporters have been calling for nationwide protests. That’s exactly what happened. ... From coast to coast, major cities saw anger over the Zimmerman verdict spilling into the streets. In Oakland, California, police say up to 100 demonstrators caused minor damage but protests, by in large, were peaceful everywhere.” The AP (7/14) says in Oakland, “some angry demonstrators broke windows, burned US flags and started street fires.” The Los Angeles Times (7/15, Blankstein, Mozingo, 692K) reports in Los Angeles, one protest “turned violent with police firing bean bag rounds.”

        The Los Angeles Times (7/15, Semuels, Rojas, 692K) reports there were demonstrations in many large cities starting as early as Saturday night. The New York Times (7/15, Nagourney, Subscription Publication, 1.68M) says the message at these rallies was largely the same. “Lawmakers, members of the clergy and demonstrators who assembled in parks and squares” described the acquittal “as evidence of endemic racism.”

        The Miami Herald (7/15, Flechas, Chang, Mazzei, 139K) says “the streets of South Florida stayed mostly quiet” this weekend despite the demonstrations during the trial itself. The Chicago Sun-Times (7/15, Knowles, 405K) and the Detroit Free Press (7/15, Anderson, 280K) each say “several hundred people” turned out for rallies in their cities. The Wall Street Journal (7/15, Campo-Flores, Subscription Publication, 2.29M) headlines its report “Scattered Protests After Zimmerman Verdict.”
        USA Today (7/15, Alcindor, Copeland, 1.71M) says “protests were being held across the country Sunday by people who say they can’t move on while they feel that the case and the bigger issues of race and justice that it represents are unresolved,” while the Washington Post (7/15, Leonnig, Johnson, 489K) says the verdict “changed little of how starkly the case has divided Americans along the jagged fissures of race and personal safety.”

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