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Stand Your Ground Vigilantes

| September 11, 2018

stand your ground vigilantism

The Dirty Harry complex.

By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson

This summer featured at least a dozen stories of black Americans across the country having the police called on them for little or no reason at all.


Famously, two black men in Philadelphia were arrested while simply waiting for a friend at a Starbucks.

Then the police were called on a black family grilling at a park in California. They were called again on a black child mowing a lawn in Ohio. And again on a black Yale University student napping in a common room. And again on a black Wisconsin man unlocking his own car.

It’s bad enough that a few white Americans are bringing in the law over mundane and ordinary behavior. But more dangerously, others are appointing themselves officers of the law.

In Clearwater, Florida, a man named Michael Drejka deputized himself to handle a traffic infraction he believed to have been committed by Markeis McGlockton, a black man.

For the alleged crime of parking in a handicapped spot, Drejka fatally shot McGlockton in the chest in front of his young children and girlfriend. Pinellas County law enforcement argued that Florida’s “stand your ground” law rendered his actions self-defense and, therefore, legally permissible.

other-wordsDrejka, it turned out, had a history of punishing perceived traffic violations with threats of violence — and, at least on one occasion, of hurling racial insults. Only after weeks of outrage did prosecutors charge him with manslaughter.

There’s a direct line between what happened to those people who had the police called on them and Markeis McGlockton. Beyond the obvious racist underpinnings of these incidents lurks something far more sinister: the rise of racially motivated vigilantism.

Instead of allowing the police to perform their jobs, some white Americans have taken the responsibility of investigating crimes and pursuing criminals upon themselves.

Take the example of the white man in North Carolina, who demanded to see the pool passes of a black mother and her son in a video that went viral. It was as if he’d been personally charged with safeguarding the private pool there.

“Concerned citizens” like these aren’t even stopping actual crimes. Instead, they’re attempting to prosecute completely imagined crimes — acts made criminal merely by the presence of a black person.

Consider the now-infamous Alison Ettel, dubbed “Permit Patty,” who called the police on Jordan Rogers, an eight-year-old black girl, for selling water without a permit. Did Ettel even know if a permit was necessary?

It’s one thing to point out that these incidents show bias. But the more pressing question is this: What keeps empowering white Americans to act on these biases?

There’s a hint in the Drejka case.

Whereas Alison Ettel acted as judge and jury, Michael Drejka acted as judge, jury, and executioner — taking a man’s life for what Drejka, not the criminal justice system, determined to be a crime. The promise of impunity offered by “stand your ground” laws ensures that others will feel similarly empowered.

There’s good reason to feel empowered: Under many state statutes, police officers only need to claim that they feared for their lives to justify shooting unarmed suspects. So it stands to reason that ordinary citizens can invoke “stand your ground” laws to do the same.

“Stand your ground” laws create a slippery slope in at least 25 states across the country. At their worst, they allow racial bias to manifest as legally permissible murder.

As Americans debate how to combat racially motivated 911 calls — including imposing a criminal penalty for them, as one New York bill would do — it’s worth considering the deadly consequences of what happens when citizens act on vigilante impulses.

Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who covers history, race, and the criminalization of poverty. 

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24 Responses for “Stand Your Ground Vigilantes”

  1. Richard says:

    The most influential racist instigator was our previous president, Obama. With his and his buddies rhetoric, he turn blacks against all white policemen or any white person in a uniform. The death and destruction to the people of this country was unprecedented by any president before him. He did more to divide this country during his 2 terms in office when in fact he could have united this country and help many people who were looking to him for guidance. So now the country is deep in trouble with blacks versus anyone of authority. With Florida’s Stand Your Ground law people should pause to think about what could happen IF before reacting. If just may save your life!

  2. Robin says:

    Thank you for a thought opinion piece. These are troubled times when armed racist idiots take the law(?) into their own hands. We as a society can do much better.

  3. John DeWitt says:

    All the examples of bad behavior pointed out by the author are truly abhorrent behaviors performed by individuals, not a race. These individuals do not represent white people when they think or act this way. It saddens me the author uses the examples only to disparage white people. I was mugged once in Detroit by three black men. I was almost mugged in Washington D.C, again by a black man. I fought back and I’m sure he regrets it to this day. I could use these incidents to disparage all black people but I know this was just the behavior of those given individuals. It says nothing about black people in general who happen to be overwhelmingly good people. Shame on the author for using individual behaviors to disparage an entire race of people. If we keep doing this we will always be divided. We cannot multiply by dividing and we cannot add by subtracting. Judge individuals for their individual behavior and never judge a race by the behaviors of individuals. It is unfair and hateful to do so. It is the very defintion of racism..

  4. Michael Cocchiola says:

    We all thought that with the election of Barak Obama, and then his reelection, we had climbed out of the deep dark hole of racism and were well on our way to inclusion and acceptance of a multi-racial America. We were wrong, really wrong. Racism in America is alive and well. It permeates white society. It has found a true champion in Trump and its voice in his angry and fearful supporters. Overt racism is acceptable again and has its own political party – Republican. We’re back to 1950 and going ever backward. It may take another generation before we rediscover our sense of equality and justice and get back into the 21st century. I fear for the heart and soul of the America I thought we had.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jesus fing christ….let racism die! Many many other stories about white people and noone mentions them?

  6. Randy Jones says:

    Today, 9/11/18, we remember the first responders who ran TOWARD the World Trade Center 17 yeas ago.
    Today, 9/11/18, we hear those who indifferently claim to “stand for something” at the cost of everything.
    Today, 9/11/18, I thank god for the right to stand my ground.
    Today, 9/11/18, I encourage all to remember – when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.

  7. Mark says:

    325 million people, there is bound to be idiots among them.

  8. Pastor Sims Jones says:

    When are people going to stop looking at Black people as something to be exterminated. I had people looking at me like what right do i have to park in a handicap spot. I have a handicap permit, because i have a plate in my ankle. but people feel i shouln’t park there.I have sat down with two white women and show them what would happen when people saw us sitting together. They were shocked by the reaction of people passing by. I’m a pastor and if I dress in my collar and suil I’m treated one way, but let me be in jeans and a tee shirt, and i’m look at another way. Like i am some kind of criminal. I worry whenever I leave my house because I don’t know what some person may do to me because I’m Black. When I tell white people about it they don’t believe that things like this is still going on today. Because of stand your ground, I pray everyday that i’ll get to see another day. I’m a person and shouldn’t have to fear going out because I AM Black, or because some one is told we need to keep them under control.

  9. Brian says:

    [Note: this comment is reporting false information. See FlaglerLive’s fact-check below it.–FL]

    Hey EBONY – since the beginning of 2018, 54 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, overwhelmingly by blacks. Look it up – 70% percent of cop killers are black, yet they are 13% of the population. This is largely a result of the “Ferguson Effect”. The Ferguson Effect was created when the left-wing media reported that “unarmed black teenager killed by white cop”. Can you say “racist”? Without any facts, investigation, or knowledge of the situation, blacks took to the streets wreaking havoc, and there began the war on cops. No mention of the fact that this loveable teenager had just robbed a convenience store and beat the shit out of the owner, and when the cop responded, he tried to wrestle the cop’s gun from his hand. Research will also show that in the miniscule percentage of blacks killed by cops, an overwhelming majority of them either resisted, challenged, defied, or threatened the officer. So in summary, I say, Stand Your Ground.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Even though it is factually, patently wrong, we are approving Brian’s comment–a frequent flier when it comes to spreading false information, particularly when it gives him the chance to display his bigoted colors–only because it illustrates common, and racist-motivated, misconceptions about law enforcement deaths and killings in the line of duty, and because it gives us a chance to provide the facts.

      We could not find documentation of Brian’s 70 percent figure, nor a breakdown of 2018 figures involving cop killing and race as yet, but the FBI maintains that database annually, and we do have the complete 2017 figures: “In 2017, 46 law enforcement officers died from injuries incurred in the line of duty during felonious incidents,” the FBI reports, 31 with firearms. All but two of the assailants were identified. Of those, “26 of the alleged offenders were White [that is, 57 percent], 16 were Black/African American [35 percent], 1 was American Indian/Alaska Native, and 1 was Asian.”

      2016: 66 killed during felonious incidents, 59 assailants were identified, 32 were white, 15 were black, 1 was Native American, race was not reported for 11 of them.

      There’s also this: According to the Washington Post’s ongoing Fatal Force database, 703 people have been shot and killed by police so far this year, at least 129 of them black (the database has yet to classify 176 of them), 34 of them unarmed, 13 of them black.

      By all means Brian: look it up. Please. You’ll mislead less, and waste our time much less. Or give Pastor Sims Jones’s comment a good read. We could even get you in touch with him. You could use some counseling.

  10. Willy Boy says:

    Turn on the local news in any metropolitan area. Who is shooting whom?

  11. The Geode says:

    For the record, Markeis McGlockton wasn’t shot for “violating a handicap parking law” – he wasn’t the one driving. He was shot (and rightfully so) for charging out of the store and without assessing the situation – violently shoved a man to the ground and stood over him as to “give him some more”. It was when the victim pulled out his gun, “Markeis McGlockton” realized that he should have used reasoning over violence.

  12. justin says:

    good article. A mother shouldn’t have to worry her child will be shot when they assault or rob someone

  13. atilla says:

    Richard nailed it. We were all getting along pretty good until Obama came on the scene and turned the blacks against the whites and moved the country back 50 years and fueled the racism to what it is today.

  14. Dave says:

    The geode, mcglockton was not standing over anybody. He was protecting a woman from an aggressive man and was walking away when shot. You cant fear for your life when your the aggressor and your victim was walking away. White people tend to call the cops more than blacks. Mostly because blacks have seen the truth that cops are not here to protect them. If you are black you can be shot inside your own locked house by a cop as proven recently. People need to mind there own buisness and not call cops every time you see a fight or a drug deal or a graffiti artist or a shop lifter. Just mind your own buisness and let the cops do their own work.

  15. Mary Fusco says:

    Sorry Dave, I don’t think that people know the truth that the cops are not there to protect them. A lot of people steer clear of the police because they are wanted for something or known by the police, usually from the time they are young kids. This is why people run rather than be cited for a traffic offense. They know that they have warrants and their arses will be taken to jail. If one is stopped for a traffic violation, no need to shoot the cop or run if you have nothing to hide. You will get a ticket and go on about your business. Unless of course, said person is wanted for another faux pas. As a final thought, please explain why the same people who hate cops and wish them dead are the first to call when they need one – usually for domestic violence.

  16. Sherry says:

    Thanks Dave, for the “FACTS” about McGlockton. It’s amazing how people completely “twist” and “spin” the truth to justify their own prejudices.

    Regarding the “Racist Rants” from the “Usual Suspects”. . . you know who you are!

    Another, more honest and reasonable, way of looking at TWICE ELECTED (including the popular vote) President Obama’s supposedly stirring the pot of racism:

    * President Obama understands that ALL HUMANS are created EQUAL! Just as the FOUNDERS of our country did!

    * President Obama had the temerity (look it up!) to use his ELECTED position to inspire and uplift those who continue to be treated as second class citizens.

    * President Obama used his ELECTED position to “try” and create some security for thousand of people who were brought to this country (illegally) as children. To try to keep them with their families and to try to keep them from being deported to some country they have never known. He did this because the “Republican” Congress refused to do anything regarding the dire need for “comprehensive” LEGAL immigration processes, including for the millions of people of color that have been living here for decades.

    * President Obama used his ELECTED office to strive for EQUAL Justice, Education and Opportunity for ALL. “REGARDLESS OF RACE OR SKIN COLOR”.

    Bottom Line. . . Twice Elected President Obama gave Hope, and Wind in the Sails to all people of color. . .

    What Actually “Fueled the Racism To What It Is Today”. . . . is YOUR reaction to that “Uppity Black Man that Had the Audacity to Inspire People of Color to Actually Act EQUAL to YOU”!!! .

  17. The Geode says:

    Hey Dave! I am BLACK. I haven’t been shot in my house OR in the street. I was recently pulled over @ 3am (allegedly speeding) and I gave the cop my license, insurance and registration and guess what? I lived long enough to respond to your comment. As far as “trusting the police”, I have ZERO problem in dialing 911 when something goes wrong. Perhaps you think ALL BLACKS think alike and devoid of “critical thought” or perhaps you don’t know enough BLACK PEOPLE to make a more clear assessment of a race.Trust me, I am close to enough white people to KNOW that lumping them in a group is asinine. However, if I based my “opinion” of white people via these “comment sections” – I would have to say that most white people are bigots and dare say …racist.

  18. just sayin says:

    Just watch an episode of PD live. It’s so bad out there, the black criminal accuses the black cop of being racist.
    An uber driver shot and killed a man charging his car with a cell phone in Lakeland FL. Where is your outrage Ebony? My bad, that story does not fit the narrative.
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/30/us/stand-your-ground-polk-county-uber-driver/index.html

  19. Brian says:

    Okeydokey Flaglerlive – give me an opportunity to defend myself. The POS Obama had ONE job in his whole life – he was a “community organizer” in his home town of Chicago. In his eight years as president, there were 4,000 murders in the communities that he was “organizing”. These were largely black-on black murders. Fact-chect that. I watch a lot of news, and I don’t recall him saying, or doing, a lot about it. He was more worried about what bathroom kids were using than if they were getting killed going to and from school. Please “fact-check”.

  20. Bill says:

    “This summer featured at least a dozen stories of black Americans across the country having the police called on them”

    So what happened to the saying “see something say something” ? I guess to the writer of this piece if the suspicious person is black then DONT say something.

  21. mark101 says:

    @DAve, ok Dave when I see someone breaking into your home, I will just look away.

  22. Sherry says:

    Appreciate your comments Geode. In my strident efforts to try and “PRY” open people’s minds and hearts to the plight of those oppressed for any reason, it occurs to me that I may accidentally offend those I am attempting to defend. Although you haven’t said so, if, by any chance, I have offended you in any way, I deeply apologize.

    I most certainly agree that there are those that comment here frequently who use a broad brush to paint whole races/neighborhoods/nationalities/genders of people and judge them in a negative way, Just as some of the people in powerful political positions do.

    Learning to “accept” and even “embrace” the humanity in every person FIRST. . . before being manipulated into fearing them and hating them. . . because they may not be exactly the same as. . . us is the moral/ethical/civilized way to create a healthy, successful society.

    Judging by many of the comments here, our community has a long way to go!.

  23. jake says:

    Not to worry people, when the baby-boomers are gone, and America is run by the millennials, racism will be dead. This generation of people are unable to communicate with each other face to face, only with their phone. Phones come in all different colors, and all appear to respect and communicate well with each other. So hang in their America, in only a few short years, all we be well.

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