The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent a message to supporters after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter Saturday evening, asking them to sign a petition urging the Department of Justice to initiate a civil rights prosecution, and reminding them that the NAACP shared responsibility for Zimmerman’s arrest and prosecution over the death of Trayvon Martin.
“Do not forget what brought us to this day,” the email, from NAACP President Ben Jealous, stated.
“George Zimmerman was arrested and charged because we would not back down when he was initially released. The Sanford Police Chief was removed from his post because we voiced our disbelief that he would overrule his detectives and block George Zimmerman’s arrest.”
Notably, the email did not say Zimmerman was prosecuted for any probable cause.
The petition linked in the email is hosted on the NAACP’s website, and calls upon Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, to charge Zimmerman for violating Martin’s right to life: “We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation. Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today.”
Holder’s department had joined the NAACP, Al Sharpton, and others in creating public pressure to prosecute Zimmerman.
Jealous had hinted at the possibility of appealing to the federal government even before the verdict:
No matter the outcome of the trial, federal officials have options for holding Zimmerman accountable for the death of #Trayvon Martin
– Ben Jealous (@BenJealous) July 12, 2013
In any other circumstance, Zimmerman–a member of a minority group, a supporter of President Barack Obama, an activist for equal treatment by police–might have enjoyed the support and protection of the NAACP.
But because he was falsely characterized as “white,” and the victim was clearly not, Zimmerman forfeited the right to equal treatment under the law, at least as far as the NAACP was concerned.