It was almost exactly 20 years ago when a jury in Southern California acquitted three white and one Latino L.A. Police Department officers accused in the beating of Rodney King, and L.A. went up in fire for several days (there was also violence in San Francisco where I lived at the time, leading the then mayor to declare martial law in the city on the Friday night after the verdict).
I felt a sense of deja vu about that time yesterday afternoon when Governor Rick Scott issued a press release shortly before special prosecutor Angela Corey was to go before the cameras and announce if charges would be filed against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin on February 26. The Governor said at the time that he had "trust in the goodness of all Florida citizens to allow our justice system to reach an appropriate conclusion in this case.”
Of course, this just begins the legal process, which is what Trayvon Martin's parents say is all they've wanted since their son's death. But the tension in this case will not abate, as Zimmerman's legal defense could very well mean trotting out the Stand Your Ground law, the 2005 legislation that eliminates the requirement that individuals retreat in the face of an attack and allow them to respond with deadly force if necessary.
We've already reported on polls that show the racial (and partisan) divide on this case between blacks and whites and Republicans and Democrats.
Although the "New Black Panthers" don't seem to be much more than a fringe group who gets an extraordinary amount of coverage from Fox News and conservative talk radio (Bill Maher says they shouldn't be taken seriously until they get a fourth member), a member of that group is a Tampa activist who now is facing the scrutiny of the national conservative intelligentsia, as well as the local media after she gave a fiery racial tirade about the case last week.
We're talking about Michelle Williams, a Hillsborough County activist that regular viewers of County Commission meetings are familiar with.