Judicial Watch • Documents Obtained by Judicial Watch Detail Role of Justice Department in Organizing Trayvon Martin Protests

Documents Obtained by Judicial Watch Detail Role of Justice Department in Organizing Trayvon Martin Protests

Documents Obtained by Judicial Watch Detail Role of Justice Department in Organizing Trayvon Martin Protests

JULY 10, 2013

Document: DOJ Community Relations Service was deployed to Sanford, FL, “to provide technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old African American male.” 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained documents in response to local, state, and federal records requests revealing that a little-known unit of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Community Relations Service (CRS), was deployed to Sanford, FL, following the Trayvon Martin shooting to help organize and manage rallies and protests against George Zimmerman.

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JW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the DOJ on April 24, 2012; 125 pages were received on May 30, 2012. JW administratively appealed the request on June 5, 2012, and received 222 pages more on March 6, 2013. According to the documents:

  • March 25 – 27, 2012, CRS spent $674.14 upon being “deployed to Sanford, FL, to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.”
  • March 25 – 28, 2012, CRS spent $1,142.84 “in Sanford, FL to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.
  • *March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent $892.55 in Sanford, FL “to provide support for protest deployment in Florida.”

* Correction to bulleted point number three: “to provide interregional support for protest deployment in Florida.” Correction required due to unintentional copywriting error.

  • March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent an additional $751.60 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31.”
  • April 3 – 12, 2012, CRS spent $1,307.40 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford.”
  • April 11 – 12, 2012, CRS spent $552.35 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17 year old African American male.”

From a Florida Sunshine Law request filed on April 23, 2012, JW received thousands of pages of emails on April 27, 2012, in which was found an email by Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board Program Officer Amy Carswell from April 16, 2012: “Congratulations to our partners, Thomas Battles, Regional Director, and Mildred De Robles, Miami-Dade Coordinator and their co-workers at the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service for their outstanding and ongoing efforts to reduce tensions and build bridges of understanding and respect in Sanford, Florida” following a news article in the Orlando Sentinel about the secretive “peacekeepers.”

In reply to that message, Battles said: “Thank you Partner. You did lots of stuff behind the scene to make Miami a success. We will continue to work together.” He signed the email simply Tommy.

Carswell responded: “That’s why we make the big bucks.”

Set up under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the DOJ’s CRS, the employees of which are required by law to “conduct their activities in confidence,” reportedly has greatly expanded its role under President Barack Obama. Though the agency claims to use “impartial mediation practices and conflict resolution procedures,” press reports along with the documents obtained by Judicial Watch suggest that the unit deployed to Sanford, FL, took an active role in working with those demanding the prosecution of Zimmerman.

On April 15, 2012, during the height of the protests, the Orlando Sentinel reported, “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.” The paper quoted the Rev. Valarie Houston, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, a focal point for protestors, as saying “They were there for us,” after a March 20 meeting with CRS agents.

Separately, in response to a Florida Sunshine Law request to the City of Sanford, Judicial Watch also obtained an audio recording of a “community meeting” held at Second Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford on April 19, 2012. The meeting, which led to the ouster of Sanford’s Police Chief Bill Lee, was scheduled after a group of college students calling themselves the “Dream Defenders” barricaded the entrance to the police department demanding Lee be fired.  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.

“These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”

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  • Grimm Tale

    If we are fighting among ourselves (black vs. white, rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated, etc etc etc) – we are distracted from fighting as ONE against the govt.

  • bmiller107

    Why are there no names or approval signatures on the Vouchers? How do we know that they aren’t fictitious?

  • joecoastie

    By tomlukens: “First of all…the CRS is a division of JUSTICE…..which is an autonomous branch of government entirely disconnected from the Executive branch…”
    ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The DEPARTMENT of Justice is an entity of the Executive Branch, the same as DOD, DHS, Agriculture, etc. I respectfully recommend you take a civics class and learn how the Federal Government is organized and operates.

  • Xcop111

    Make no mistake about this. The Justice Dept under Eric Holder is actively creating a atmosphere of anger by fueling racial fires over the Zimmerman verdict all over the country. Holder addressed the NAACP convention in Florida yesterday and as much as called for protests in 100 cities. The Obama administration has been waiting for a situation like this to create civil unrest throughout the country. If Obama can get enough riots going on in enough cities, he can then declare marshal law and suspend the Constitution until he deems the situation is safe, which he will not declare things safe for quite a while. Do not underestimate Obama or Holder, they are racists and are pushing for this unrest and dividing the country even more than it is already. Tomlukens is naive if he thinks this is not connected to the White House, all he has to do is read or listen to what Obama and Holder have said to know where this is going. It’s as naive as saying that the IRS cooked up targeting conservative groups on their own without presidential approval. Tomlukens needs to read Inside the Third Reich to know just how this administration works. The Obama admin is the Fourth Reich!

  • Swamiwilly

    Politifact.org judges this article “Mostly False” because the efforts of the CRS were to calm things down, not to stir them up.

  • Swamiwilly

    This is a good example of biased interpretation of evidence on the part of Judicial Watch; seeing want they want to see rather than objectively assessing the facts. Politifact.com rated their report as Mostly False;

    “Judicial Watch’s statement contends an element of truth: Justice Department employees were sent to Sanford, in part to deal with community uprising, including protests. But they were sent with the idea of keeping the situation peaceful and calm, not to instigate or condone protests or violence.

    That’s a critical distinction being ignored in this particular claim. We rate it Mostly False.”

  • mcptginc

    tomlukens….this has nothing to do about the WH. The Dept. of Justice has no business funding rallies, protests, or to get involved to put pressure on LOCAL law enforcement to have a police chief removed from his job or to prosecute any case!! If the DOJ chooses to prosecute for human rights violations that is a totally different story. This is a corruption of the law under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If I am reading your take correctly you are way off base. The DOJ made it a racially and politically motivated prosecution. This WH came out during the arrest of the professor in Cambridge Mass. where Obama claimed the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” before all the facts were in. It seems that they are quick to rush to judgement when it is an issue of color. They are, both the DOJ, and the WH, supposed to represent America as a whole not to promote politics when it comes to justice and the rule of law.

    This quote…“These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”….is EXACTLY what they attempted to do. Because I also believe and feel that our taxpayer dollars should not go to any one group for any reason just because they promote the political agenda of any branch of Gov’t regardless of their political affiliation.

  • geeksquad100

    @tomlukens Wow are you that brainwashed? Yes your right CRS is part of the department of “Justice” BUT the department of “justice” including the CRS is not in anyway a division of JUSTICE. The DOJ is a disgrace for the very word and meaning of Justice. “autonomous branch of government entirely disconnected from the Executive branch.” -what fairytale delusional dreamland have you been living in? “Any undertaking of the Justice-CRS is DOJ policy and can not be tied of course to the president, the administration or the exec branch at all.” really? Fast and Furious anyone…….”Obama Asserts Executive Privilege Over The Department Of Justice’s Gun Running Scandal”
    http://www.businessinsider.com/justice-department-obama-executive-privilege-fast-and-furious-contempt-eric-holder-2012-6
    Thats just one example of many.

    “Justice-CRS is an apolitical entity that sends experts trained to diffuse building situations of a particularly racially divisive nature.” Now its getting comical you are just reading government talking points at this point obviously having not even read the article.
    “The paper quoted the Rev. Valarie Houston, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, a focal point for protestors, as saying “They were there for us,” after a March 20 meeting with CRS agents………..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.” -WOW now thats what I call an apolitical entity meant to diffuse situations by siding with 1 side of the conflict and arranging a 40 mile police escort for protesters of that side (Sarcasm). Moron

  • bell

    I came to this page expecting to be outraged, but I’m just confused. There is a lot of innuendo, but I can’t see exactly what the CRS employees were doing (except for arranging the police escort, which may have had a perfectly valid reason).

    It is possible (though I have my doubts) that these guys were just helping an overwhelmed locality make sure that everyone got the proper permits, knew where they could and couldn’t go, informed them of the legalities of a “peaceful” protest, etc.

    How about some information here before we go off like Obama and call for riots before we hear the evidence.

    And, I just want to add, as stupid and wrong as the “Justice for Trayvon” protesters are – I 100% support their First Amendment right to look like idiots in public.

  • zero_out

    @tomlukens
    ?? Where is it that you are implicating a POTUS connection being posed?

  • Gilchrist

    I cannot understand the ignorance of people like tomlukens. Does he really believe the Department of Injustice is part of the Judicial Branch of the federal government? Of course it is an EXECUTIVE department. Not only is Holder is part of the Obamanation’s cabinet, he has claimed EXECUTIVE privilege in his refusal to testify completely before the Congress.

  • DOJvsJUDICIAL

    Your comment states, “First of all…the CRS is a division of JUSTICE…..which is an autonomous branch of government entirely disconnected from the Executive branch. Any undertaking of the Justice-CRS is DOJ policy and can not be tied of course to the president, the administration or the exec branch at all.”

    You’re incorrectly associating the Department of Justice (DoJ), an executive branch office, with the judicial branch of government. The Judicial Branch includes circuit courts, courts of appeals and the SCOTUS. The DoJ, headed by the US Attorney General, is comprised of such federal agencies as the FBI, US Marshalls, Bureau of ATF&E, and the US Attorney’s Office, among others. So, in this instance, your claim that it’s “simply irresponsible to try to connect any action of CRS to the whitehouse” is outrageously inaccurate. All activities of the DoJ ultimately fall at the foot of the Attorney General, Eric Holder, an executive branch political appointee and presidential cabinet member nominated by President Obama. Therefore it’s entirely correct, and responsible, to connect the actions of CRS to the White House.

    Furthermore, you’re assertion that it’s “further idiocy to remark that they (CRS) have somehow chosen a side in the murder trial or have escalated tensions. You can not make your political point unless you attempt to do so responsibly.” is laughable for two reasons. One, and most egregiously, you’ve asserted your claims irresponsibly by not basing them on factual knowledge of the different branches of government, to wit DoJ (Executive) and the Judiciary. Two, the information provided above by Judicial Watch (JW) clearly shows a CRS bias towards only one dimension of the Martin/Zimmerman problem; to wit assisting those who demanded the arrest of Zimmerman for the alleged crime(s). By doing so they may have kept such marches peaceable but they also enabled them to be much larger in scale and breadth of scope. This assistance, according to the claims in this article, were instrumental in forcing the hand of local law enforcement, which should always remain impartial to political pressure.

    In view of the original intent behind the creation of the CRS as part of the Civil Rights Act, the conduct of this organization with regards to the Zimmerman case at least, clearly appears to be biased towards race baiting rather than helping a wronged community find its voice without violent repercussions.

    THIS is what the author is alluding to at the end of the article when JW President Tom Fitton is quoted as saying, “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”

  • Yode

    …oh yeah

    And as part of the Executive branch, POTUS is ultimately responsible for the operations as such.

  • Yode

    tomlukens is wrong…..there are three branches of US government Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

    The Justice Department IS part of the Executive Branch responsible for enforcing legislation passed by the Legislative Branch.

    It is NOT part of the Legislative or Judicial branches.

  • dntrpltt

    @tomlukens If you read the entire press release, you can see that JudicialWatch does reference the DOJ’s CRS legislatively prescribed duties, and you can also see how such duties weren’t carried out impartially, as they were supposed to.

    Also, while you are correct in your assumption that CRS is designed to operate autonomously of the Executive branch, as does the DOJ, I would remind you that its Director (of CRS) is a Presidential appointee.
    The claim that the DOJ can operate independently of the Administration that is what is nonsense–why would the Attorney General need to appoint Special Prosecutors to investigate possible criminal actions taken by Presidents if the DOJ operated completely autonomously from the Executive Branch? You need to read no further than this excerpt from the press release to see exactly why the CRS’ actions in this incident reflect negatively on the Obama Administration: “Set up under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the DOJ’s CRS…reportedly has greatly expanded its role under President Barack Obama.”

    Whether one believes Zimmerman is guilty or not, the actions of this government agency should appall every citizen of this country. The amount of taxpayers money spent on these actions is negligible in the whole scheme of things, but it seems to me that the CRS may have over-stepped their bounds on this one, unless it believes that staging or actively helping to organize protests is a “…tension reducing technique.” (From the CRS page linked above.)

  • ace57

    JUSTICE: Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity or fairness, as well as the administration of the law, taking into account the inalienable and inborn rights of all human beings and citizens, the right of all people and individuals to equal protection before the law of their civil rights, without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, or other characteristics, and is further regarded as being inclusive of social justice. Department of what?

  • uvbogden

    @tomlukens: Your post was complete koolaid drinking delusion. Did you copy and paste from Media Matters? You criticize Fitton for being critical of the Justice Department by confirming that CRS is a division of DOJ which you describe as a completely separate and autonomous branch of government that can’t be tied to the President. You also criticize Fitton by saying that he’s wrong to fault the President for CRS actions which you claim are apolitical and don’t take sides.

    Point of Order: Fitton did not blame the President for the illegal, despotic actions of the CRS, he placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder who heads the DOJ. AG Holder was appointed by President Obama, is a presidential cabinet member and serves at the President’s pleasure as an integral part of the Obama Administration, Executive Branch of the U.S. Government. Obama is ultimately responsible for anything his Administration does. While Fitton does not place blame on the President at this time, Mr. Fitton is too generous. I believe Obama has politicized every government entity he can apply pressure to, and is also responsible for the politicized DOJ and CRS illegal activities.

    While there are a number of strong contenders, no Obama minion has politicized his office, aside from Obama himself, more than AG Holder. Refusing to defend existing laws such as DOMA. Neglecting to prosecute New Black Panther members who threatened and tried to discourage white voters because racism only exists as white against black; there’s no such thing as black against white racism. Suing states for passing laws to have local law enforcement help federal officials enforce national laws against illegal immigration when DHS and DOJ refuse to enforce existing laws. Fast and Furious gun trafficking to Mexican drug cartels and lying to Congress about it. Supporting and defending the President’s belief that he can kill Americans without due process whenever he feels like it. Lying on a petition for warrants to wiretap and monitor electronic communications of a large number of reporters working on stories that were derogatory to the Obama Administration, shopping it to several judges before one would submit to their demands, then lied to Congress about it. The CRS-DOJ says a lot of nice, friendly, helpful things about itself on its website. However, there is abundant evidence obtained by Judicial Watch that they are Obama Administration hired gun outlaws violating the Constitution by inciting the overthrow of local government and law enforcement entities.

    My advice to you @tomlukens, and to all like tom who have lost the ability, through disuse, to think critically, to be aware of what’s going on around you and to read and understand good and truthful literature, is to go cold turkey off the koolaid (and any other mind-altering drugs or websites you may be using) and when you’re in recovery, gradually learn to use your brain again. God help us all!

  • diahni

    Wait a minute! Isn’t it the job of this arm of the DOJ to handle community reaction to controversial trials?
    Hey, remember the Texas judge who was screaming for a revolution if our President were re-elected? Now, THAT is nauseating.
    http://alt.atheism.narkive.com/Q60tUBx1/dumber-than-dirt-texas-judge-lexington-and-concord-take-up-arms

  • unrealuknow

    People need to step back from political ideology and look at what they did. They sent 2 people in to make friends with the most ardent opponents of GZ. They supported their ideas to make them happy, and anyone else including the police chief or GZ himself was worth the effort. Conviction is a must, because they look at this as a giant DHS issue. Rioting in multiple major US cities. As a political leader, what do you judge the greater good to be? In this case the government decided that it was worth the lives of GZ and anyone else associated with this case, including lawyers, judge, jurors and witnesses, to avoid wider violence. This was a simple infiltration effort.

    ALL THE WHILE they are collecting information about the people they are meeting. Where they live, numbers, friends associates, FB etc. Spying on Americans and storing data, and identifying potentially subverse or violent people. At least potentially in the government’s eyes. Everything can be a threat nowadays, and agents of agencies like CRS are just a front for the DHS and NSA.

  • Property Watcher

    What was the reason that all of the requested documents were not released? What was the delay in release of additional documents after JW appealed? Why wasn’t this report from JW released as soon as JW received the documents? The dates mentioned in this JW report change the importance of events that occurred before Mr. Zimmerman went to trial. Mr. Zimmerman went to trial because of the actions of DOJ-CRS! I feel sick to my stomach.

  • Property Watcher

    Mr. Lukens: The DOJ-CRS was not involved in PREVENTING an escalation, they ORCHESTRATED the escalation! Look at the dates. An “apolitical entity”? Are you serious?

  • versteckt

    “press reports along with the documents obtained by Judicial Watch suggest that the unit deployed to Sanford, FL, took an active role in working with those demanding the prosecution of Zimmerman.”

    So then why aren’t these reports and documents linked? ;)

  • facistdestroyer

    Tomlukens, nice attempt at damage control for the
    Obama admin. Fact is people in his administration
    Contributed to potentially violent protests. Bottom line

  • gene1357

    In fact, criminal activity is well documented throughout the tenure of the lying P.O.S. Holder. He is Chicago-land’s proudest.

  • gene1357

    Abuse by this DOJ is SOP.

  • tomlukens

    this is really irresponsible. The last paragraph is outright nonsense:

    “These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”

    First of all…the CRS is a division of JUSTICE…..which is an autonomous branch of government entirely disconnected from the Executive branch. Any undertaking of the Justice-CRS is DOJ policy and can not be tied of course to the president, the administration or the exec branch at all.
    Secondly, the Justice-CRS is an apolitical entity that sends experts trained to diffuse building situations of a particularly racially divisive nature. They are acting to stop escalation of potentially dangerous situations before they happen.
    its simply irresponsible to try to connect any action of CRS to the whitehouse…and further idiocy to remark that they have somehow chosen a side in the murder trial or have escalated tensions. You can not make your political point unless you attempt to do so responsibly.

  • LORIDCOCHRAN

    The thing that the potus and holder are doing are criminal and so far, the are getting away with it!!! What can we do to stop this grave injustice?!?!?!

  • vperl

    Is there any surprise that the DOJ is interfering in the process? The POTUS has already decided the verdict, and it seems this power of the POTUS is a very new addition to his royal powers of office. Nothing to see here, move on..

  • dkpickard1

    I realize that no one cares, but many decades ago, I stood against the racism of my birth state, North Carolina. No I didn’t do anything remarkable, just did the right thing in the face of my own race’s prejudice. I was pretty much an outcast in middle and high school because of my stand. Now, after all these years, I see one racism exchanged for another. I have to ask myself what was the use in fighting white racism only to get black racism instead? Maybe humans as a group, are just too stupid and petty to continue to be the top of the food chain on this planet if this is the best that the “greatest nation on earth” can do. Don’t mean to rant but it looks like I should have taken the easy and self centered way out for all the good it did. Naw, you can’t change who you are. You either stand for what’s right, or you are part of the problem. President Obama, Attorney General Holder, you sirs are part of the problem.

  • Treadmark

    You are right. As a citizen, I am outraged at my tax dollars being spent to incite riots.

  • pengolf1

    Well, I guess this answers any questions about this administration’s justice department.
    It’s JUST US as opposed to Justice.
    And, BTW….I’m NOT surprised.

  • pboggs

    I am not an attorney, but if true, how is this NOT an attempt to obstruct justice?




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