Protest, but don’t destroy

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board July 17, 2013 08:41 am

Some people contend that the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin illustrates an inherent injustice of the American legal system —- one that’s racially motivated.

We disagree.

We agree that Martin should still be alive.

And we agree that he probably would be alive, had Zimmerman chosen to stay in his car rather than pursue the teenager that night in February 2012.

But, as the trial testimony and the verdict clearly showed, Zimmerman’s bad judgment does not make him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murder or manslaughter.

Zimmerman had the right to follow Martin.

And once the fight started — a fight which, by all the available evidence, Martin was winning — Zimmerman was also legally entitled to defend himself.

That’s the standard by which the jury had to judge Zimmerman’s actions. 

Some groups argue that the best solution is to have the federal government take up the case and prosecute Zimmerman for violating Martin’s civil rights.

We disagree.

There’s no reason to believe federal officials would succeed where the Florida prosecutors failed. It defies logic to think that some mystery eyewitness will suddenly appear, or some evidence be uncovered to prove that Zimmerman is a raving racist.

A potential civil case is a different matter.

Martin’s family might well be able to prove Zimmerman’s culpability, in part because the standard is lower in civil court — a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.

A civil suit is at least a legitimate way to continue this debate.

Marauding the streets of Los Angeles and other cities, however, is not.

Some of the protests that followed Zimmerman’s acquittal can’t be justified, and indeed we doubt they were actually motivated by the verdict.

Using that decision as an excuse to break windows and steal from businesses, to attack innocent people and to block highways, is more of an insult to Martin’s memory than the jury’s decision.

People who are truly aggrieved by Zimmerman’s acquittal are entitled, of course, to publicly protest.

But they would bolster their credibility if, in addition to airing their beliefs about the verdict, they emphasized that violent and destructive protests serve no legitimate purpose and weaken, rather than strengthen, the protesters’ position.