A little-known unit of “peacemakers” within the U.S. Department of Justice spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to help organize rallies and train protesters who were calling for the prosecution of George Zimmerman after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch spent over a year investigating the deployment of the DOJ’s Community Relations Service to Sanford, Fla. for a three-week period where employees worked demonstrations, rallies and protests against Zimmerman.
According to Judicial Watch:
Though CRS purports to spot and quell racial tensions nationwide before they arise, the documents obtained by Judicial Watch show the group actively worked to foment unrest, spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on travel and hotel rooms to train protestors throughout Florida.
The peacekeepers also met with officials of the Republican National Convention, scheduled for several months later in Tampa, to warn them to expect protests in connection with Martin’s death.
The CRS was “created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964” and was designed to assist state and local communities address racial tensions and prevent hate crimes using “impartial mediation practices and conflict resolution procedures,” the DOJ explained of its CRS unit.
However, Judicial Watch discovered otherwise.
The hundreds of documents Judicial Watch requested under the Freedom of Information Act showed the CRS played an active role in the anti-Zimmerman protests, including the March 31 rally led by activist Al Sharpton:
CRS employee spent $1,142.84 to travel to Sanford, Florida from March 25-28, 2012 “to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies”;
CRS employee spent $751.60 to travel to Sanford, Florida from March 30-April 1, 2012 “to provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31”;
CRS employee spent $1,307.40 to travel to Sanford, Florida from April 3-12, 2012 “to provide technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford”;
CRS employee spent $672.24 to travel to Tampa, Florida from April 18-20, 2012 “to meet with RNC official related to possible protests and demonstrations during the RNC”
The CRS also assisted protesters calling for the resignation of then-Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee for not charging Zimmerman with a crime in the immediate aftermath of Martin’s death.
The Orlando Sentinel wrote on April 15, 2012: “They [the CRS] helped set up a meeting between the local NAACP and elected officials that led to the temporary resignation of police Chief Bill Lee according to Turner Clayton, Seminole County chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,” Judicial Watch reported.
“According to the Orlando Sentinel, DOJ employees with the CRS had arranged a 40-mile police escort for the students from Daytona Beach to Sanford.”
The students referred to themselves as the “Dream Defenders” and blocked the entrance to the police station demanding Lee’s resignation.
“These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton concluded. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”
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