by Tim Reed/photo and video courtesy of the NAACP
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took to the stage at the NAACP convention yesterday to talk Trayvon Martin and slam “stand your ground” laws. “It is time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods,” he said. According to Holder, “These laws try to fix something that was never broken. The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent.”
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In a joint statement released when the tragedy first occurred, the National Education Association, Florida Education Association and American Federation of Teachers registered their disgust with the laws by saying, “When laws like ‘stand your ground’ make individuals arbiters of guilt and relegate the judicial system to the role of a mere bystander, that tragedy belongs to all of us.”
Holders remarks came as part of a speech to thousands of NAACP members during their annual convention, where activists pushed Holder and the Department of Justice to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. Petitions from the NAACP and MoveOn.org in support of civil rights charges have already reached more than 1 million signatures.
NEA President and high school math teacher Dennis Van Roekel has called upon NEA members and social justice activists to sign the NAACP petition, saying:
The National Education Association stands with the NAACP in calling for a full investigation by the Department of Justice. A full federal civil rights investigation is essential. As educators, it is our responsibility to our students to set the example by acting to seek justice, to teach fairness, and to provide comfort to students and families who grieve.
Following his remarks on Trayvon Martin and the tragedy of “stand your ground” laws, Holder spoke on another topic close to many social justice advocates’ hearts, the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 of the VRA, which was gutted by the Supreme Court last month, was an attempt to protect minorities in voting districts with a history of discrimination by requiring those districts to seek federal approval before any changes were made to voting procedures. Holder pledged that the Justice Department will not wait for Congress to possibly set new standards under the law, but instead shift resources to focus on prosecuting specific cases of minority voter discrimination using Section 2 of the VRA.
Visit NAACP.org and sign the petition seeking justice for Trayvon Martin.