Thursday afternoon at a press conference in Sanford, Fla., the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense circulated a “wanted dead or alive” poster for George Zimmerman for shooting to death a Florida teenager four weeks ago.
Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed neighborhood watch captain, said he accosted what he alleges was a suspicious looking black male walking through his neighborhood. He further contends the man punched him and bloodied his nose, so Zimmerman fired a gun shot striking the man in the chest. The “man” was 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who would lie in the county morgue three days before police alerted his parents of their child’s death.
Minister Mikhail Muhummud led the press conference, calling for the firing of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, the arrest of George Zimmerman and some involvement from President Obama. Muhummud stated he is the southern regional director for the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense located in Jacksonville, Florida. While Minister Muhummud fired off a list of demands and expressed outrage over the handling of the shooting and subsequent investigation, a member of the group passed flyers to about 100 people who showed up for the press conference. Muhummud told the group he was not concerned with rumors of death threats to George Zimmerman: “He should be afraid for his life…” (SEE http://youtu.be/ZE_i9TELcfw)
Muhummud said, “I’m here today to appeal to the country, particularly President Obama, to do the right thing while you have the power.” He said that “Trayvon Martin symbolizes my son.”
President Obama had not addressed the issue, but had advised the Justice Department to open an investigation into the case. This morning following Muhummud’s press conference, President Obama spoke about the case for the first time publicly. He echoed the sentiments of Muhummud saying, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon...” (SEE http://youtu.be/efZNgSEpB1k).
When the group started chanting “Black Power,” Adele Azarucquoi, a white long time resident of Sanford shouted, “What about white people?”
Muhummud quickly said, “We don’t hate any group. We hate injustice. We appreciate the whites who have come forth to help us.”
There were fewer than a dozen whites, not counting media, among the mostly African American crowd. “I hope there are more people who look like me at the next rally for Trayvon’s family,” Ms. Azarucquoi said.
After the news conference, Azarucquoi told a journalist: “This heart of mine is sick when a kid gets killed because his skin is different from the skin of the guy who shoots him.”
She then requested that a journalist walk across the street with her to speak with Police Chief Bill Lee. Upon arrival at his office, the receptionist said he wasn’t in the office then said, "He hasn’t been in the office in several days.”
Later in the day Chief Lee announced he was temporarily stepping down.
Present at the news conference was Mildred Duprey de Robles, Conciliation Specialist for the United States Justice Department’s Office of Community Relations. Ms. Duprey de Robles declined to speak with the press other than to say she was there as an observer.
The Justice Department’s Office of Community Relations is mandated to help negotiate peaceful resolutions to community problems. She appeared to have gotten an earfu and left quickly when the press insisted on more communication from her.
Members of the public who came in support of the New Black Panther Party’s press conference were vocal in their outrage over the shooting and investigation. They called for the dismantling of “the good ole boy network.”
Pastor Paul Wright, whose 1,000-member church, Calvary Temple Praises, is several blocks from the police department, dropped by the press conference. When asked about the “wanted dead or alive” poster Pastor Wright said, “I don’t agree with that. We don’t need to set a precedent that this is the way to resolve problems.”