Audio obtained by Judicial Watch shows that Department of Justice staffer Thomas Battles, regional director of the Community Relations Service tasked with working with Trayvon Martin rallies in March and April 2012, coordinated with community members about ousting Sanford Police Department chief Bill Lee. The audio is from a meeting at the Shiloh Church on April 19, 2012 with city officials and minority advocacy group Dream Defenders.
“I want to welcome you all tonight to a community dialogue,” Battles says on the tape. “Tonight comes out of a commitment by the city to begin to develop a plan to talk with the community about moving forward. So as we come tonight, this is not a gripefest, but an attempt to move the city forward in a very positive way…CRS is an arm of the department that we call the Peacemakers. We work with communities where there is real or perceived racial tensions. If a community perceives that there’s something wrong in the black community, there’s something wrong.”
He then introduces someone from the Dream Defenders, who says, “When Trayvon happened, for many of us, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. We had grown up in a state and environment where race is a way of life….We’re not from Sanford, but what Sanford represented to us was the very real problems going around this state and this country. We wanted to figure out how could we stand in solidarity, and how could we make this about not just justice for Trayvon, but using this moment and using the opportunity to honor his memory, to honor his spirit by working to bring down the various structures and the various systems that allow something like this to happen.”
Judicial Watch alleges that the CRS “actively worked to foment unrest, spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on travel and hotel rooms to train protestors throughout Florida.”