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Citizen’s Arrest or Civil Disobedience?







by Alton H. Maddox, Jr.

On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman, in Sanford, FL, fatally shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin. There was no probable cause for his seizure. This is a homicide and it requires the prosecuting agency in Florida to immediately empanel a grand jury and vigorously seek an indictment. Any homicide requires a criminal prosecution and a jury verdict.

So far, Zimmerman is offering reasons why he should not be arrested for the homicide. He argues that Florida has a license to kill law which exonerates him from any criminal charges. The point that he is missing, however, is that only a judge or a jury may find a reason for an acquittal.

The condition precedent for an acquittal is an arrest. Zimmerman is not willing to submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court and public officials are not willing to arrest him. In the meantime, no one is willing to effect a citizen’s arrest of him even though probable cause exists for his arrest.

When animal rights activists obtained evidence that Michael Vick had abused some dogs, they demanded swift and certain justice. Both the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia invoked their criminal laws to successfully initiate criminal actions against Vick who could explain his actions at trial. He could also present character evidence at trial.

Public officials claim that Florida’s “stand your ground law” has actually muddied the waters. This law may muddy a conviction but it does not muddy an arrest. Any claim of self-defense may be invoked after the prosecution has presented its case to a petit jury. It is premature to present this claim of self-defense before trial. The media should back off.

A claim of self-defense is a jury question. It is incumbent on a defendant to make this claim at trial. It should be aired before a judge or petit jury. A defendant may also offer character evidence at trial. Zimmerman, however, chooses to try a murder prosecution in the media while he is in hiding.

It is good for the governor of Florida to appoint a special prosecutor to show a lack of bias in local officials but Zimmerman must be taken into police custody forthwith. This arrest can be achieved by a citizen. The special prosecutor must be unbiased and the grand jury investigation should have started yesterday. Zimmerman has already admitted that he killed Martin.

Instead of making a citizen’s arrest, Rev. Al Sharpton is urging civil disobedience. This advice is wrong-headed and suicidal. Civil disobedience has no place in jumpstarting the arrest process. Persons who engage in civil disobedience to arrest a suspect are engaged in a questionable tactic since those same persons can effect the arrest of Zimmerman without fearing an arrest of themselves.

Given the fact that Rev. Sharpton heads the Madison Avenue Initiative, this idiotic ploy will only help the media and its advertisers. These false arrests will add excitement to evening news program in addition to public affairs programming. Rev. Sharpton is cashing in on a dead body.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines “civil disobedience” as follows:

A deliberate but nonviolent act of lawbreaking to
call attention to a particular law or set of laws
believed by the actor to be of questionable
legitimacy or morality.
[Emphasis added]

The protest of the killing of Trayvon Martin also involves the lack of an arrest. The right to arrest Zimmerman is clear. To be sure, some persons do have concerns about the text of Florida’s self-defense laws but the problem is not the failure of anyone to invoke the arrest laws of Florida. Civil disobedience makes no sense in provoking the arrest of Zimmerman. It is civil suicide.

In effecting the arrest of a criminal suspect, an arrest by a law enforcement officer is the second option. There can be a citizen’s arrest and not civil disobedience. Moreover, “wanted posters” should be circulated to encourage Zimmerman to come out of hiding. The arrest of Zimmerman by a citizen is lawful. It is also lawful to circulate “wanted posters”.

A Black person, in hiding, would hope that a Jim Crow sheriff catch him or her before a white mob did. With a white mob, “justice” would be swift and certain. A Jim Crow sheriff may have other options and other concerns. The end game, however, may be the same.

Instinctively, whites always consider self-help. On the other hand, Blacks never consider it. They never consider themselves as playing a meaningful role in the criminal justice system except as suspects. Many white outlaws are roaming the countryside, because Blacks believe that only whites can arrest other whites.

This arises from the three-fifths provision of the U.S. Constitution. Blacks still see themselves as fractions while whites see themselves as whole numbers. This happens because Blacks are still engaged in mythologic and are unable to master the skills of critical thinking. This absence of critical thinking handicaps Black success.

After arriving in New York in 1973, I decided to be a poverty lawyer. This was supposed to be a temporary goal. I was hired by Harlem Assertion of Rights, Inc. [HAR]. This legal services program had no Black nor Latino staff lawyer even though the clientele was Black and Latino. This was of no concern to Black lawyers.

New York has always been in the vanguard of white supremacy in the United States. The “War Between the States” was actually a “War Between Democrats and Republicans”. New York was an exception to the Republican Party in the North. Southern states were in the Democratic Party”. New York sponsored the “Tilden-Hayes Compromise” which allowed for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South.

Whites know how to conduct war. Warfare in the United States started with the landing of Europeans in North America and it continues to this very date by connecting all dots and thinking outside the box. New York had a financial stake in the continued enslavement of Blacks in the South.

Samuel J. Tilden, a Democratic governor and presidential contender, was from New York. Rev. Al Sharpton was a student at Tilden High School in Brooklyn. This was no accident. Sharpton vigorously advocates the disarmament of Blacks. This is a revisit of the “Tilden-Hayes Compromise”.

One of my first cases at HAR was a Black woman who sought to file a well-founded criminal complaint against a white man. The NYPD told her that it would have to urge the white man to file a baseless criminal complaint against her. The white man filed a cross-complaint. The office of Manhattan district attorney decided to prosecute the cross-complaint against her.

This was a standard practice in New York City in 1974. She was later convicted of making an accusation against a white man. Censorship prevents Blacks from learning about the true workings of the criminal justice system in their own urban communities. Blacks favor censorship because it promotes personal agendas which are inspired by self-hatred.

If Blacks in Harlem had favored a policy of self-help, her conviction would have probably been avoided because of the arrest of the white man. At the very least, censorship would have been unable to raise its ugly head. Instead, Blacks have been endorsing and financing their own oppression.

Self-help is an ancient practice and it is sanctioned by the laws of the United States. There had been a spate of anti-lynching legislation before 1950. Congress, however, has refused to make it a crime for whites to lynch Blacks. Self-help is a condition precedent to lynching which also includes judicial lynchings.

Soon after I arrived in New York City, I learned of two legal stalwarts in the law. Both of these men had shaken up the legal profession in either New York or New Jersey. They dominated the headlines for their legal prowess and legal courage. Justice Bruce Wright was situated in Manhattan. Ray Brown was the attorney in New Jersey.

Before I was graduated from high school in Newnan, GA, attorneys like Donald Hollowell, C.B. King, Leroy Johnson and Howard Moore were dominating the headlines. Even before I had met them personally, they were already my role models. It took courage to be a fierce Black lawyer in Georgia in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

To be an effective Black lawyer representing unpopular Blacks, you must not only be knowledgeable but also courageous. The legal profession in the United States is not only adversarial but it is also rooted in the notion of “trial by combat”. It is intended to have casualties like Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham.

There are prisoners of war. Each side, on paper, has the power to make an arrest. This is a problem for descendants of enslaved Africans, however Whites enjoyed the right to arrest in the seventeenth century. Three centuries later, some Blacks in law enforcement were given the power to arrest.

When whites observe a Black person commit a felony, they are instinctively inclined, at the very least, to make an arrest. Most whites, however, are also inclined to be judge, jury and executioner. “100 Years of Lynching” contains examples of the white, modus operandi. It starts with a seizure and ends with stretching the neck of a Black person. In the alternative, there is a propaganda campaign followed by a kangaroo trial.

A white police officer murdered an unarmed Ramarley Graham in his Bronx home on February 2, 2012 without a warrant or probable cause. George Zimmerman murdered an unarmed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL on February 26, 2012 simply because of the color his skin. Blacks in both venues are outraged. Nonetheless, they are demanding that whites arrest their own.

Both whites and Blacks are entitled to effectuate arrests under self-help laws. Whites have no problem in putting handcuffs on Black wrists. Blacks, on the other hand, wrongfully see themselves as “heathens”. It is not right for a “heathen” to put handcuffs on “Sons of God”. Whites must do the honors. Old habits are hard to break. Slave codes are still in effect.

Joe Oliver appeared on ABC‘s national news program this Sunday morning as a character witness for George Zimmerman. Oliver is a person of African ancestry. In the meantime, the leading Black “lawyer” in the country who has fought for Black children, without fee, for four decades can only be heard this Sunday on City College’s radio station in New York City.

“100 Friends of Like It Is” will also, among other things, discuss self-help laws not only under the criminal justice system but also under real property laws and the Uniform Commercial Code at the Cotton Club, 656 West 125th Street in Harlem on Saturday, March 31 at 9:00 a.m. What you don’t know can kill you.

Too honest for the White Press and too black for much of today’s Black Press; bullet columnist Alton Maddox upsets the same people and status quo as he did as an uncompromising Defense Attorney. He is also a founding member of the Freedom Party. Please sign his Petition to save “Like It Is.” Contact him at c/o UAM P.O. BOX 35 BRONX, NY 10471

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