Trayvon Martin’s family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Daryl Parks appear to have connections to an Astroturf activist group that led protests, marches and other civil disobedience that forced the removal of Sanford, Florida’s police chief, the arrest of George Zimmerman and even led chants calling for nationwide protests after the “not guilty” verdict was announced in criminal case.
The group is called Dream Defenders, and is coordinated by a woman named Vanessa Baden, whose LinkedIn resume says she is an employee of Florida law firm Parks & Crump and has been with the firm since 2006. Attorney Crump told Breitbart News that Baden doesn’t currently work for the firm, one of a number of contradictions between statements by Crump and Baden.
The Dream Defenders organization has been a key player in the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin story since March 2012. They present themselves as merely a group of college students, and no connection to Parks & Crump is mentioned in the group’s press materials, on its slick website, or in media reports about the group’s activities. As its Twitter profile says:
The Dream Defenders is an organization directed by Black & Brown Youth, who confront systemic inequality by building our collective power.
Crump flatly denied any involvement with Dream Defenders to Breitbart News, describing them as “all young people volunteering.”
The Dream Defenders has been actively involved in whipping up the frenzy against Zimmerman, the city of Sanford and its former police chief Bill Lee, without revealing that the group’s coordinator says that she works for Parks and Crump.
In this article from the Sanford Herald, “City officials meet with Dream Defenders,” the group is described as “a group of college students”:
City officials met with leaders of the Dream Defenders on Thursday evening to discuss the city’s plans to move forward and possible changes in the Sanford Police Department.
The meeting, which was facilitated by the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, began with statements from city officials and Dream Defenders leaders Gabriel Pendas and Vanessa Baden.
The Dream Defenders, a group of college students, initially came to Sanford Easter weekend during a 40-mile march from Daytona Beach. The group gathered in front of the Sanford Police Department on 13th Street where they blockaded the front door, causing the temporary shut-down of the department April 9.
The reference to a Dream Defenders meeting “facilitated” by the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Services (CRS) group is worth noting. As Breitbart News reported last year, the CRS is the small group that was sent down to Sanford by Eric Holder’s DOJ to act as the eyes and ears of the Justice Department and enabled a number of rallies, meeting and protests against the city and Zimmerman.
Last week, Judicial Watch released hard evidence of the DOJ’s meddling in Sanford’s affairs, and much of it involved the Dream Defenders working closely with the CRS. In other words, the Department of Justice was facilitating the agenda of a group that appears to have been led by an employee of the law firm representing the Martin family, a stunning amount of bias for the federal goverment to show in a local crime case.
As Judicial Watch explained:
Separately, in response to a Florida Sunshine Law request to the City of Sanford, Judicial Watch also obtained an audio recording of a “community meeting” held at Second Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford on April 19, 2012. The meeting, which led to the ouster of Sanford’s Police Chief Bill Lee, was scheduled after a group of college students calling themselves the “Dream Defenders” barricaded the entrance to the police department demanding Lee be fired. According to the Orlando Sentinel, DOJ employees with the CRS had arranged a 40-mile police escort for the students from Daytona Beach to Sanford.
One of the pressure tactics used to press the City Manager to fire Police Chief Bill Lee was to threaten the City Manager with being fired if he didn’t comply. One of the people leading that threat was Vanessa Baden. as explained in this report from Bay News 9:
The meeting was scheduled earlier this month after “The Dream Defenders,” a group made up primarily of college students, demanded the meeting while protesting on the steps of the Sanford Police Department.
When the meeting was scheduled on April 9, the group had just completed a 40-mile march from Daytona Beach to Sanford over Easter weekend.
Meanwhile, Dream Defenders Coordinator Vanessa Baden is agreeing with some residents that if Chief Lee is not fired soon by city manager Bonaparte, that Bonaparte should be held responsible and lose his job.
Once again, the Dream Defenders were presented as “students” by a CRS official at that meeting.
The Dream Defenders group has also evidently played a larger role outside Florida, and was specifically cited by activists elsewhere, such as at the “Justice for Trayvon” rally in Portland, Oregon on Sunday.
Vanessa Baden, who is described as the Dream Defenders’ coordinator in a press reports, is a former child actress who starred in Nickelodeon shows like Kenan and Kel. In 2006–the year her LinkedIn resume says she started work at Park & Crump–Baden was a student at Florida State University when Benjamin Crump met her and brought her in to work at his firm. She then worked on the Martin Lee Anderson case, which Crump has said was “the playbook” for the Trayvon Martin case.
Baden wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post on April 12th, 2012; nowhere in her biography did she mention her connection to Dream Defenders.
Vanessa Baden is a 26-year-old veteran of the Television industry. Vanessa has been in entertainment her whole life as a series regular on Nickelodeon’s Kenan & Kel, Gullah Gullah Island, and John Singleton’s feature film Rosewood. Vanessa is a native of Satellite Beach, Florida and is a graduate of Florida State University. Vanessa has had extensive organizational and business experience as a former regional director of a 501(c)3 national organization, former State Political Action Chair of the NAACP, a Children’s Defense Fund YALT and Proctor Scholarship Training Participant, staffer for Obama for America, and co-founder of the Student Coalition for Justice. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where she is co-president of Hometeam Ent., LLC and is Executive Producer of upcoming sitcom “Fail” along with James Bland and Christopher “Play” Martin (Kid n’ Play)
In her Huffington Post article, she mentions the coalition of institutional left groups involved including the NAACP, SEIU, and Southern Poverty Law Center.
Students from across the state of Florida and the nation have gathered to trek 40 miles from Daytona to Sanford, Florida to call for justice around the killing of Trayvon Martin. We have flown in from jobs in Los Angeles and Amsterdam, driven in from campuses in North Carolina and Alabama, and wrapped up homework early and sacrificed a long holiday weekend to be here. We have clear and concise goals. Purpose. Tactics. Some have been trained by the NAACP, SEIU, Children’s Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, and various other organizations, while others have no experience; just commitment. Far from the apathy our generation is so often labeled with.
In a short interview on Sunday July 14th, I asked Benjamin Crump directly about Vanessa Baden and he said that she worked for him ‘many years ago':
Breitbart News: Vanessa Baden works for you, correct?
Crump: She used to…she was….many years ago, yep.
Breitbart News: She doesn’t..her LinkedIn resume says she works for you now.
Crump: Nope. Not any more. She doesn’t work for us.
That answer by attorney Crump directly contradicts what Vanessa Baden’s LinkedIn resume says: it lists her as “Director of Activism” and says she’s a current employee of Parks & Crump LLC.
Further, Crump’s claim that Baden worked for his firm “many years ago” appears to conflict with statements made by Baden discussing her activism work with Parks and Crump:
We just got done with the Trayvon Martin campaign and when I say ‘we just got done’ we’re kind of letting the court system do their thing right now and we’ll see what happens when the trial begins because we could EASILY pick it back up again, just like Martin Anderson…
Around the time of the verdict, activism from Dream Defenders indeed picked up again, including a planned rally in Tallahassee on Tuesday.
Crump also denied that Baden did activism at Parks & Crump in our interview.
Breitbart News: What did she do for you?
Crump: She was a college student that interned at our office.
Breitbart News: Did she do activism stuff or…?
Crump: No. She lived in California. She hasn’t been at our office for a while now. But she’s a good person, used to intern with us.
That answer by attorney Crump about whether Vanessa Baden was involved in activism contradicts what Vanessa Baden has said in interviews:
So I was working there at at his (Crump’s) office for sometime and the Martin Anderson case came in. Martin Anderson is a 14 year old boy who died at a Sheriff’s Boot Camp in Bay County and it just kind of happened organically. He brought me in to meetings that they were having, he said I want a young persons view on it and I think that Vanessa can handle it. And when I came in, that’s when we started the Students Coalition for Justice, we led the largest student led march in Florida history…
This video from 2007 shows some of the Martin Anderson post-verdict activism; there are obvious similarities with activism in the post-verdict phase of the Trayvon Martin hearing.
As In.Com’s biography of Baden says:
It was a protest as the capital, that turned into civil disobedience when the protesting students from FAMU (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University), FSU Florida State University and TCC, (Tallahassee Community College) blocked two busy intersections during rush hour at the capital. Vanessa acted as spokesman for the Coalition and was quoted repeatedly in involving articles, none of which connect her with her Nickelodeon past. Vanessa even lead this chant: Vanessa:Tell me what democracy looks like Protesters: Peace is what democracy looks like Vanessa: No Justice Protesters: No Peace.