This weekend, the National Action Network (NAN) is set to hold vigils urging the federal government to investigate civil rights charges against George Zimmerman but a prominent Florida Republican -- former Congressman Allen West -- is expressing his outrage about Al Sharptons role in the protests.
Sharpton, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and currently has a number of media perches including a show on MSNBC, will be leading Justice for Trayvon vigils across the nation. Along with Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, Sharpton will be leading a vigil in New York City on Saturday being organized by NAN.
Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin, will be attending a NAN vigil at the U.S. courthouse in Miami on Saturday. There are nine other events being planned for Saturday by NAN besides the one in Miami where Tracy Martin will be attending. NAN has also scheduled another event in Miami, two in Fort Myers, and vigils in Fort Pierce, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee and Tampa.
Besides these events pressing for a federal investigation of Zimmerman, Sharpton continues to attack Stand Your Ground laws and is planning on holding events in Florida to repeal the states law. If we dont change the Stand Your Ground laws, we risk having more Trayvon Martin cases because the law emboldens people, Sharpton insisted at a media event earlier in the week.
But Sharpton has drawn fire from West who remains popular with conservatives and the tea party movement despite losing his congressional seat to Democrat Patrick Murphy in November. West has left the door open to a political comeback in 2016.
West posted on Facebook late Tuesday about doing an interview with Politico on Wednesday concerning Sharptons large profile in the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict.
The former congressman quoted the words of civil rights leader Booker T. Washington."There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs -- partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs."
West then took direct aim at Sharpton. I watch the destruction of the black community in America, I have had it with the politics of race baiters who use iambic pentameter sing-song speech to anesthetize blacks from the reality of their demise, West wrote.
Sharpton has certainly drawn criticism of being a race baiter before. Back in 1995, when Fred Harari, who ran Freddie's Fashion Mart, tried to evict a black-owned record store out of a building he owned in Harlem, Sharpton led protests and attacked Harari as a white interloper. When one of the protesters stormed Hararis store and shot customers and set the store on fire, leading to several deaths including the gunmans own, Sharpton denied any responsibility for the incident. He later expressed regret for using the term white interloper.
Sharpton had also been a vocal supporter of Tawana Brawley, a teenager who said she was raped by white men. A grand jury found in 1988 that Brawley was not sexually assaulted and may have staged the appearance of assault. Despite Brawley changing her story and the grand jury ruling, Sharpton and others accused New York officials of covering up the incident and fingered ... police officers, and Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones as being one of the assailants. Pagones sued Shaprton and others for defamation and won. Sharpton refused to reach into his own pockets and relied on supporters to pay Pagones.
Despite his controversial history -- which also involves accusations of making anti-Semitic comments in the Crown Heights riot that rocked New York City back in 1991 and saying in 2007 that truly religious people would ensure Mitt Romney, a Mormon, would not be elected president -- Sharpton remains a prominent figure in the Democratic Party. Sharpton has run for the U.S. Senate from New York several times and ran to be mayor of New York City in 1997. During the 2004 election, Sharpton ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and was invited to debates with the major candidate. He took 2 percent of the total vote in the Democratic presidential primaries.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 904-521-3722.