The Trayvon Martin "cause" however, continues to live on, with life breathed into its metaphorical corpse by a corrupt legacy media desperate to maintain the fiction that institutional racism is alive and well in Obama's America. On life support, the manufactured faux rage of the chattering class continues to be splashed across the pages of online editions of print newspapers and monthlies; and on "specials" by the cable news cabal regurgitating the same tired tropes first put forth by Ryan Julison.
Tonight marked the anniversary of the night of that fateful - and fatal - encounter. February 26th, 2012 was the night that changed the lives of the Zimmerman and Martin families forever - the night that Trayvon Martin decided that he would respond with fists and fury, and die from the close range shot of man terrified and bloodied by the brutal assault.
New York, however, would be different. Crump, Martin and Fulton were flown in, and at the center of the media world, would be fêted and fetishized. There would be a "Vigil" in New York, and it would be a homage to all that is good and true in the artificial artifice that is liberal, progressive New York.
As I exited the subway station at Union Square, at first I was concerned that I had misread the date and time. There were large numbers of young black men in hoodies, but they were hurrying down the stairs to the subway, away from Union Square.
As I mounted the steps, there was no din, no roar, no pent up emotion pulsing down the gangway as is typical of large public gatherings. Only the wind, and the swirling scraps of paper tossed by inattentive tourists provided background noise.
When I finally arrived at Union Square, what I saw was less a "Vigil" / "Memorial Service" / "Protest", and more like a media scrum for a Presser. There were no major network trucks parked like scarabs at the curbs, their satellite dishes blooming like mushrooms after a rainstorm, but a mere collection of second and third tier media with boom microphones and one man crews.
Circling the event thrice, I put the crowd at 200 - maybe if one is generous, 300 souls at most. I've been to Bat Mitzvahs with a larger attendance. The "oppressive" police presence toted up another 30 - 40 warm bodies, with the assorted media bringing up the rear with between 25 - 30, depending on what you categorize as "media".
The first thing that struck me was the dearth of angry black men in hoodies. In fact, there seemed to be an overly large representation of fresh faced blonde co-eds holding up professionally produced placards declaring "Revolution or Nothing Less" and "Dignity for All". Speaking to one of them later, it became obvious that they had been recruited as temp help/sign twirlers, and most had forgotten the basic instructions to ditch their college sweatshirts and wear hoodies. Oh well.
|Trayvon Martin in effigy at the Union Square Vigil, Manhattan, NYC ~ Feb 26th, 2013|
Aside from the paid sign twirlers/media props, the largest contingent seemed to be clad all in black with sweatshirts declaring them as members of the "National Action Network" (Al Sharpton's professional grievance group).
Following that, greatly outnumbering the young black males in hoodies were earnest wealthy white Liberal women from the Upper West Side and Tribeca sporting smart $40 blowouts who wanted desperately for anyone in the black media to acknowledge their "anti-racism" stance and "concern for gun violence".
Rounding out the cast of the forlorn were a group staffing a large table from "BA" feverishly trying to hawk the wares of Bob Avakian**. ("Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America", "What Humanity Needs - Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism", etc.) A small group of Bob Avakian acolytes tried to sell "commemorative" newspapers with the iconography of the hoodie-wearing, air-brushed, lighter, less threatening Trayvon for a "donation" of $1.00, but during my time at Union Square, I did not see a single sale.
The event, aside from being marginally attended, seemed to be one gigantic prop put in place for the black media to conduct "interviews" in order to keep the withering Trayvon Martin story alive. This was met with limited success. At one point, the organizers asked, "TV guys - are you okay?", and when the response was, "NO" - the organizers then instructed the compliant NYU students to "move in close and kneel down so they can get their shots". When NBC's the Grio was conducting interviews about the "New Jim Crow" and the "Stop the Mass Incarceration Network" and "Stop Stop and Frisk", the paid help dutifully moved into view, provided a tight shot two to three deep, marginally sign twirling, giving the illusion of a "crowd". All shots were carefully stage managed and set up for maximum value. All that was missing was a green screen. I am sure NBC and the Grio back at the studio can helpfully photoshop in some additional warm bodies to plus up the non-existent "Protest".
As I wandered around, taking notes and talking to participants, something struck me: the "Vigil" was a motley collection of the delusional, the permanently embittered and the emotionally adrift.
The event was poorly planned, and even more poorly managed - if that was possible. Confusion reigned. The few people who had candles began to light them at about 6:45 p.m. just as the gloom was descending (both physical and spiritual). The organizers had forgotten to request a working sound system in their permit request, so the speakers could not be heard. At first, the managers attempted a "Mike Check" group megaphone first test marketed in the "Occcupy" movement, but the cold and damp crowd refused to muster the enthusiasm to keep it going. Then they tried to get a "Call and Response" going - "We are Trayvon", "Hoodies Up", "Take to the Streets"... but that also quickly fizzled as well. Seeing a sense of malaise, someone within the organizational management helpfully spread the rumor that the police had "cut" the power to the (non existent) Public Address system, causing the few hoodie wearing black males to cast a baleful look in the general direction of "New York's Finest" while muttering about the need for "Constitutional Attorneys" to solve the problem. (What exactly did that mean? Were they expecting a station wagon of "Constitutional Attorneys" to roll up with a Public Address system and generator in tow and solve the logistical nightmare? I was confused.)
At about 7 p.m., the event began to turn into an anti-police rally. Rhetoric was brandished about that the police at the "Academy" are "taught" to hate and distrust all black men, and Zimmerman had the "same attitude" because he was "taught" by the police. (Try and keep up).
Benjamin Crump then began to speak. The organizers did not keep the marginal crowd back, so those in the third ring could not see Crump, Martin or Fulton - and because of the lack of the PA system (again - due to a lack of planning and foresight, not some vast police conspiracy), hearing his whole address was difficult. He repeated many of the same tired talking points he has test marketed within the sympathetic cable market - that a "black mother in Mississippi should have the same expectations as a wealthy white mother in Massachusetts", "America needs to live up to its creed", and putting up hoodies is to "tell the world that it's not what we wear on the outside, it's what's on the inside". Next, he raised his voice and tried to evoke a response from the crowd by declaring, "We need to end Stand Your Ground and Move to Share the Ground that God gave us" to limited effect. He again revisited his "chased, profiled and pursued" verbiage and unsuccessfully tried to sustain another Call and Response of "I am Trayvon Martin".
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton spoke, but I could not hear them, nor could the majority of the crowd. At this point, it was 7:10 p.m., and most began muttering in frustration as the crowd began to dissipate, before the designated 7:15 p.m. official "Candlelight Vigil" time.
Your faithful correspondent,
** Bob Avakian is apparently the current Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
His acolytes seemed to be the most bitterly disappointed by tonight's proceedings, one declaring to me that "We were supposed to have a Revolution, and it was supposed to start tonight. The parents came all the way from Florida and were not allowed to speak." (technically not true. They did speak, but because of there was no PA system, no one could hear them. Not quite the same thing).
NB: I asked several police officers on the scene for a crowd estimate. None were willing to go on record, although one did laugh and tell me, "I think you can count them all yourself". ;-)
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