Doing for Trayvon What He Did for Tawana

For over two decades, race-baiting rabble-rouser Al Sharpton has made a lucrative living by fomenting suspicion, anger and outright hatred between the races. Anyone remember Tawana Brawley?

On November 28, 1987, a 15-year-old black girl named Tawana Brawley was found lying inside a trash bag outside an apartment building located in Wappingers Falls, New York.

She was covered in feces and racial insults had been scrawled on her body. When questioned by police she claimed that a group of white men, including police officers, had raped and beaten her. The black community rallied around her, and a prominent black leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton, appointed himself her spokesman. Support for Brawley reached its peak on June 15, 1988 when her advisers held a meeting at the Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn that was broadcast to an audience of ten million viewers.

However, the material evidence did not back up Brawley’s claims. Her body displayed no signs of rape or assault. She was not frostbitten, even though she had supposedly been kept naked in the freezing woods for days. The feces on her body turned out to be from a neighbor’s dog, and even more damningly, a local resident of the apartment community where she was found claimed to have seen her climb into the trashbag alone and lie down of her own accord.

In October 1988 a grand jury issued a report following a seven-month investigation. It concluded that Brawley’s claims were a hoax. Many speculated that Brawley had made up a wild story in order to avoid punishment at the hand of her stepfather for having run away from home for three days. But Brawley herself insisted that she was telling the truth, a stance which she has maintained to this day. More than anything else, the episode and its bitter aftermath displayed the deep racial divisions that still haunted American society.

These days, the Reverend Sharpton – who now hosts his own show on MSNBC – is at it again, doing what he does best.

If George Zimmerman is not arrested in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin soon, theRev. Al Sharpton will call for an escalation in peaceful civil disobedience and economic sanctions.

Sharpton would not say the efforts would be taken against the city of Sanford specifically, but he has been critical of the police department’s handling of the case.

While it appears the NAACP (which is sponsoring a march in Trayvon’s hometown of Sandford today) apparently tried to distance itself from Sharpton’s threat, I leave it to you to decide if this was a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” moment:

Turner Clayton, the Seminole County chapter president of the NAACP, reacted immediately to Sharpton’s warning, saying, “We hope that the citizens of Sanford will govern themselves accordingly. We are not calling for any sanctions, against any business or anyone else. And, of course, what Rev. Sharpton does, that’s strictly the [National] Action Network. We can’t condone that part of the conversation, if that’s what he said.”

“I don’t think they can confuse that,” Clayton said. “It’s just that they will have to make a judgment as to whether they want to follow the mission of the NAACP or follow what the Rev. Sharpton said.”

Clayton said that the rallies are going to show support from the community and show the special prosecutor that “we are interested in what happened, and we’re not going to stand by and let them do something that the people of Sanford will not accept.”

Saturday’s rally will begin with a march from the Crooms Academy to the Sanford Police Department on 13th Street. The march begins at 11 a.m. and is hosted by the NAACP.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is expected to attend, along with Sharpton, who is expected to deliver specifics on his warning.

Sanford city workers spent the day discussing security and preparing for the rally, including setting up barricades, signs, cones and a stage.

Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch leader, shot and killed Martin, 17, last month, in a gated community in Sanford. Zimmerman claims the shooting was in self-defense.

Is it a “conflict of interest” for the Reverend Al to be a wild-eyed, race-baiting, camera-hogging activist and a cable news program host for MSNBC?

Evidently not, according to his boss, MSNBC honcho Phil Griffin:

Sharpton’s dual role would have been unthinkable on television 20 years ago and still wouldn’t be allowed at many news organizations. While opinionated cable news hosts have become commonplace over the past decade, Sharpton goes beyond talking.

“It certainly represents a change in our traditional view of the boundaries between journalism and activism,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. “Al Sharpton is clearly an activist.”

Sharpton, a Baptist minister, runs the Harlem-based National Action Network, a civil rights organization. He’s been a frequent presence as an advocate in racially-charged cases dating back to Tawana Brawley‘s accusations of an assault that turned out to be a hoax in the late 1980s.

He joined MSNBC’s roster of hosts last summer after extensive discussions about how his activist role would continue while on the air.

MSNBC chief executive Phil Griffin said his chief requirement was that Sharpton discuss his activism with network bosses so they could decide, on a case-by-case basis, how it would affect “Politics Daily,” which begins at 6 p.m. ET.

“We didn’t hire Al to become a neutered kind of news presenter,” Griffin said. “That’s not what we do.”

Griffin, talking before Monday’s show, said he hadn’t seen any conflict with Sharpton’s role on and off the air in the Martin case. He said Sharpton had fulfilled his requirement to honest and upfront about his activities, and credited “Politics Daily” with helping to make it a national story.

And somewhere, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is sadly shaking his head.

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One Response to Doing for Trayvon What He Did for Tawana

  1. I am Sparticus says:

    How long will it be before the peaceful protests cross the line? Where is the line?