UPDATED: Police Deny Neo-Nazi Vigilantes Are Patrolling Sanford’s Streets
UPDATE 2pm, April 9. Mediaite says that Sanford police say they say they have “no indication” of neo-Nazis patrolling Sanford.
Heavily armed neo-Nazis have taken it upon themselves to patrol in and around Sanford, Florida, where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Commander Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement tells the Miami New Times that armed patrols are needed because ”white citizens in the area … are concerned for their safety.” Schoep, who describes his Detroit-based organization as a “white civil rights organization,” claims that the $10,000 bounty put on Zimmerman by a group called the New Black Panther Party for a citizen’s arrest is proof that racial violence could occur and that it’s therefore necessary to be ”prepared” for violence.
The patrols contain 10 to 20 locals and “volunteers” from across the state. Schoep did not specify exactly what kind of weapons they have armed themselves with but commented that “in Arizona the guys can walk around with assault weapons and that’s totally legal” and that what “we are doing now in Florida” is “totally within the law.”
Raw Story‘s Muriel Kane notes that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Schoep is “a neo-Nazi true believer since age 10 who has managed, largely by luck, to end up heading one of the largest explicitly Hitlerite groups in America.” Schoep’s group attained its “fame” — notoriety — for holding a rally against “black crime” in Toledo, Ohio, in October of 2005. Police ordered Schoep’s group to leave before marching as their anti-racist insults had infuriated local residents. Police bussed NSM members out of the area but were then attacked by some of the local residents and 100 were arrested. As far as the NSM was concerned, “things could hardly have gone better.”
Schoep told the Miami New Times that he is not taking sides about the killing of Martin because Zimmerman himself is not white but “…half Hispanic or Cuban or something. He certainly doesn’t look white to me.”
It goes without saying that tensions in Sanford and around the country have been high since Martin was killed. Writing in the Guardian, David A. Love draws attention to a “vigilante spirit” in the U.S. justice system and also a “lingering lynch mob mentality.” Along with misconduct among prosecutors and police corruption, Love singles out the “stand your ground” law which
…enables vigilantes who wish to perform private, extrajudicial executions and become a legalised lynch mob. The law breaks with centuries of legal tradition by allowing a person to “stand one’s ground” and use deadly force wherever he or she feels threatened, without a duty to retreat.
The “stand your ground” law was first enacted in Florida. 21 states have adopted it and the likes of the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council — ALEC – promote it. The law enables vigilantes to act outside of the judicial system while also giving the nod to “renegade prosecutors who stand in the way of justice.”
Martin’s killing and the failure of police to arrest, and of prosecutors to indict, Zimmerman — and also the very presence of Schoep and other neo-Nazi patrolling Sanford’s streets — are all part of nothing less than “an epidemic of a vigilante spirit within the U.S. justice system.” Has the U.S. court system become mere ”window dressing for a racist mob mentality” and — as Love chillingly writes — is the death penalty now simply a ”‘legal replacement’ for the lynchings of a bygone era”?
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