By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
The controversial Florida Stand Your Ground law is back in the spotlight with Reverend Dr. Todd S. Yeary, vice president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, calling for the repeal of the law he says is nothing more than a legal license to kill, especially African Americans.
Six years ago it was the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was fatally shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012 in Stanford, Florida, that sparked a national debate about that law. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder a year later.
Saying enough is enough, Yeary is outraged over the shooting of Markeis McGlockton, 28, outside of a convenience store in Clearwater, Florida by Michael Drejka who blasted McGlockton’s girlfriend for parking in a handicapped space.
The video shows McGlockton talking to Drejka then shoving him to the ground. Drejka went for his gun and McGlockton backed away. It is at this point that Yeary said McGlockton did not pose a threat and that Drejka’s shooting is unjustified.
According to Wikipedia, 46 states have enacted Stand Your Ground laws. “This is a legislative justification for the use of deadly force. It gives folks cover to rather exact violence than de-escalate tension,” said Yeary.
Drejka, Yeary said, “is the actual aggressor. He gets out of his car, walks up to (McGlockton’s) vehicle and begins to verbally assault” McGlockton’s girlfriend who had parked in a handicapped space.
“This was a woman he did not know, and when McGlockton and son come out of the store, he (Drejka) is the one in the aggressor posture.”
Yeary said it is McGlockton “who is standing his ground, but because the aggressor gets pushed they distort how it (the law) gets applied.”
Referring to the Trayvon Martin case, Yeary said, “It raises the concern that we still see this law as a false justification for violence, very often white shooter, Black victim.”
“We’ve got to repeal these laws if we are going to get back to a place of being a more just and compassionate society,” he said.
Reminded that this is a Republican administration, Yeary said, “You are also dealing with high levels of political disengagement. When you see the system fail so long, you tend to think that nothing is going to change even if you were to step up.”
Yeary said the first thing people must do is to get re-engaged into the political process. “We have a high number of unregistered voters, but we have a higher number of voters who just don’t vote. If we vote our interests and voted our potential, it would be easier to raise the issue and to make sure there is a healthy debate about why we need to go back.”
Reminded that in the 11 southern states there are millions of Black voters who are registered but do not vote, Yeary said, “Frustration is one reason and voter suppression is another…making it more complicated and confusing to be able to exercise your right to vote.”
“What we have to do is to be one step ahead,” Yeary said. “Community leaders have not been creative in their response. We have to have a sustainable resistance to be able to make sure we stay ahead….We have to work in concert to leverage every opportunity for us to vote….” This is how working together we can eliminate the Stand Your Ground Law.
“We should not have regular every day citizens being vigilantes of their own sense of justice. We use to call that lynching. Now, we call it Stand Your Ground,” he said.
“Extra judicial violence whether it’s done by an individual or a mob is what actually gives Stand Your Ground its cover,” Yeary said. Referring to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri who cited the Stand Your Ground law as the reason why he could not arrest Drejka, Dr. Yeary said, “They’ve created a legal justification that there is nothing they saw in the video that would say this person would be charged.
“I saw the same video and everything I saw in the video said he could be charged. What justified him to get out of his car to walk up to somebody he did not know, begin to verbally assault them and begin to intimidate. Intimidation is a crime,” Yeary said.
“Our political world ought to push the U.S. Department of Justice and the State Attorney General in Florida to go back and re-examine it, otherwise it would be a further distortion of how Stand Your Ground is applied not only in Florida but the other states that have this law.”
Yeary said Drejka should be arrested because he “created an unnecessary confrontation….To come away with a different conclusion is not only unfortunate, but it’s troubling. It says we are being willful in our blindness much like days of lynching that depending on who the victim was and who the offender was, the cause would be you would never charge a white offender for killing a Black man,” said Yeary who later made similar comments on WVON’s “Bob Shaw” show.
Saying one primary was determined by 16 votes and in another county an incumbent on the County Council lost by a single vote, Yeary said, “Every vote matters. We’ve got to get back that every vote matters. What we don’t know is when it’s going to matter the most.
“This November is going to be the most consequential election for at least a generation. If this president comes out with 50 or 51 votes in his favor in the Senate, you will not get a fair asking of any Constitutional issue, based on who he has been nominating to his federal courts,” he said.
Yeary warned, “If we don’t come out and vote, we will be fighting uphill for a long time. “We need everybody engaged, every organization….” Reminded that some organizations are protective of their turf, he pointed out, “Turf fighting when you’re the slave means nothing. If we are trying to stay off the plantation, our self-interest ought to make us sit down at the table and say we’re going to go at this together. At the end of the day, slavery was institutionalized. It was not selected.”
He warned if there isn’t unity then “we’ll be in the same boat because we are going to be the slaves again.”