On Saturday July 13th, we were reminded of the importance of the work of the Urban League and others of good faith in our ongoing quest for justice and equal treatment under law. The verdict rendered in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin was heartbreaking and disappointing beyond words. Although the trial was centered in Sanford, Florida, the terrifying reality that many of us realize is that it could have happened anywhere in this nation, including our city of Portland. Shortly after learning of the verdict, I received this communication from Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League that gave voice and intent to the course of action that the Urban League will pursue to challenge this unjust verdict.
Statement from Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, on the Trayvon Martin Trial Verdict:
“This is a sad moment for our nation. The not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman has extended the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death to a travesty and miscarriage of justice. While we must accept the jury’s decision under the due process of the legal system, we want to make it clear that this is far from over. We are focusing on two important aspects of federal law which may have been violated by George Zimmerman and which should be investigated, with the potential to lead to an additional indictment and another trial.
First, the National Urban League and Urban League Movement, along with the NAACP, National Action Network, the Black Women’s Roundtable and others, are joining to collectively ask the Department of Justice to pursue a federal criminal civil rights investigation. Our forward efforts will be to encourage the DOJ to proceed in conducting a thorough investigation of whether any federal laws were violated by George Zimmerman in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
From the very beginning of this case, if not for Ben Crump and the local community’s call to the civil rights leadership, this matter would have been swept under the rug. Our collective efforts stopped that from occurring last year. Today, we continue to send a strong message of solidarity with Trayvon’s parents and with his family. But we also want to send another message – this is not the end.
The Civil Rights Movement in this country historically has been the hallmark of peaceful protest and expression, and for anyone to suggest otherwise is an effort to discredit the very issues at hand. As part of the civil rights leadership of the 21st century, we encourage people to express themselves with the discipline and responsibility that are consistent with our First Amendment rights and with the traditions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Activists who are concerned that justice has not been met should absolutely continue disciplined and directed advocacy on behalf of justice for this family through elected officials, social media, organized protests and other appropriate means.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, we also encourage people of all backgrounds to join us on August 23-24 for another historic effort in Washington, DC – the “Drum Majors for Justice Summit: Redeem the Dream” and the “Civil Rights Continuation March.” In light of the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case – and the recent Supreme Court ruling on voting rights – the civil rights continuation effort has a renewed vigor and purpose. The cause and quest for justice and civil rights in the 21st century continue.
There is no victory in this case, but we will fight until the end for justice. This is not over.”
The challenge to this travesty has to come from many individuals, groups and many communities, including our own here in Portland I ask you to join the voices of all who are committed to insuring that this tragic decision not be allow to stand unchallenged and unchanged. Let us demonstrate the foundational truth to CEO Morial’s words, “This is not over”
Today OPB’s Think Out Loud radio program featured local reaction to the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal, and I was invited to share some of my thoughts. You can hear my the show in its entirety here.
Yours in the movement,
Michael C Alexander
President and CEO
Urban League of Portland