George Zimmerman and New Black Liberation Militia Highlight Vigilantism in the Modern Era

No doubt, the nation is gripped by the injustice of Trayvon Martin’s tragic death at the hands of George Zimmerman. Yet this incident is only the latest of an ongoing trend of individuals acting on the periphery of law on the basis of protecting one’s community from unlawful individuals.

Vigilantes view themselves as the self-appointed doers of justice, but can also be categorized as fanatics. Arming themselves with guns allows them to act unilaterally (known as the “trigger-happy”effect) to suppress crime if they believe that the federal government is powerless or inattentive. Capturing perpetrators takes intense training to determine whom the “bad guys” are. Zimmerman’s biases demonstrate the danger that untrained and armed individuals pose to themselves and others by operating as a single-unit police force.

Furthermore, vigilantes view themselves as being the last bastion of civilization in the onslaught of chaotic environment, a Wild West where they liken themselves to the lonesome sheriff.  Zimmerman already exhibited a past history of biases towards blacks. Concerned over recent break-ins that occurred in his neighborhood, he urged police to beef up security and as a result, additional patrol cars were sent to do routine checks in the area. But this did not satisfy Zimmerman. In his previous calls to police, the nature of the calls included reports that car were “driving real slow, looking at all the other vehicles in the complex and blasting music.” In another report, Zimmerman contacted the police over two black male teens in the neighborhood and deemed them “suspicious."   

Zimmerman is now known to have made nearly 50 calls to police while operating in his neighborhood watch role. This by itself is not problematic. The issue of retaining a gun for the purposes of keeping watch for a neighborhood patrol is a point of contention considering his over-zealousness and tendency to over-react. Had the neighborhood watch been registered with the national register of USA-OnWatch-Neighborhood Watch Program, the neighborhood would have been provided with proper training, prohibiting the carrying of firearms. Further,as part of the registration process, background checks on members would have been conducted.   

The public’s outcry for swift justice was initially unmet by the failure of the local police to address this issue.

As a result, the New Black Liberation Militia, a militant group evoking some serious Black Panther-like views, intends to wage a citizen’s arrest of Zimmerman as they attempt faster justice.

While such movements aim to portray themselves as the "victim" and view others as entering into one’s sacred territory, it instead spreads fear in a community.It’s taking an isolationist approach and internalizing it and what happens, inevitably is an explosion between groups of people.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons         

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Alina Tsui

New York native. She is a political-science major at City College of New York and is interested in breaking social, political and cultural barriers by writing about these issues.

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