At a Congressional forum on the Hill yesterday at which Florida teenager Trayvon Martin’s parents were asked to testify, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) took center stage. She claimed first that Martin had been victimized by racial profiling and a “botched police investigation.” But she went even further: George Zimmerman, the shooter in the case, she said, should be arrested “immediately for his own safety.”
This has become a rallying cry for other members of the left. Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said on MSNBC several days ago that Zimmerman should be “for his own safety, let’s just go to the ultimate extreme, for your safety, Mr. Zimmerman, because people may want to execute vigilante justice against you, we want to protect you, we want to put you in jail, we want to put you under cover of the law. Nothing is reasonable here to suggest that Mr. Zimmerman should continue to go free.”
There are no legal grounds upon which somebody can be imprisoned for his or her own safety, unless they are actually a threat to harm themselves, which is not the case here. In fact, the Constitution expressly forbids such measures under the Fourth Amendment, which states that people have a right “to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The only excuses for a criminal arrest in America are probable cause or an arrest warrant based upon probable cause. Arresting citizens “for their own safety” smacks of tyranny.
There is something perverse about this new tactic, too. Zimmerman may well deserve to be locked up -- but not without due process of law, and certainly not based on the notion that he’s been endangered by a mob whipped to fever pitch by the media and political supporters of Trayvon Martin. This tactic simultaneously condemns the climate of violence the media has created surrounding Zimmerman, and upholds it by using it as an excuse to lock up Zimmerman. As a Congresswoman sworn to uphold the Constitution, Rep. Wilson should know better.