Sen. Siplin says Sanford Must Break its Plantation Culture
Senator Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) believes that the appointment of an independent prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin killing is a “big, big victory” for the teen’s family and the first positive action toward making sure justice is done. But he warned that, should Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, be arrested and convicted, more needs to be done to break with the ‘Plantation Culture’ which best characterizes the city of Sanford.
Siplin made the observations at a news conference on Friday, where he said he is planning a number of fact finding missions to hear first hand what African Americans are subjected to in Sanford. He added that economic and social issues have got to be addressed if the “Plantation Culture” is going to be changed.
“My aim is to hold these hearings then go back to Tallahassee so that we can bring about some economic and social development, including the provision of health services and housing, for these folks,” he said.
Several legislators who lead various social and economic development committees in the Senate, will join Siplin on the fact finding missions.
Siplin referenced the 2006 “Jena Six” incident, in which a 17-year-old white Jena High School student was battered by a group of black students, after which Jena returned to its plantation mentality.
Siplin said, he was unaware of how Blacks are treated when stopped by Sanford police officers.
“I have been told first hand by residents of Sanford when they get stopped by police, they are told ‘give me your finger prints on the spot or you will be put in jail’,” he said. “Or police would say, ‘you let me search your car, or we are going to put you in jail’.”
African American residents in Sanford have said, ‘when they are the victims of crimes, nothing happens, but when they shoot somebody, they are arrested right away’, he said.
Asked whether he thought that justice would be served in the Trayvon Martin killing, Siplin said, he believes that the chances are greater with the appointment of a special prosecutor.
“I think that we have a better shot at getting justice now that we have an independent prosecutor,” he said. “The governor, state attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI are all looking at the case.”
While a Grand Jury will convene on April to review the Trayvon Martin killing, Zimmerman, the confessed trigger man has not yet been charged or arrested.
Siplin, an attorney by training, said, he has talked to several current and former prosecutors who believe that there is sufficient probable cause for Zimmerman to have been arrested on the night the shooting occurred.
Asked whether he thought an arrest was likely before the grand jury met next month, Siplin demurred.
Siplin also declined to comment on whether the composition of the Grand Jury ought to be a cause for concern and would only say, “I have made some preparation concerning that…I will invite you back next week to talk about that item.”
Pressed to elaborate further on Sanford’s ‘Plantation Culture,’ Siplin had this to say:
“From my first hand chat with the residents of Sanford, from my own observations, from the tape that I heard, and from the non-action of the Sanford Police Department — and I do have some very close friends who were prosecutors at one time all of whom said that, he (George Zimmerman) should have been arrested the day of the incident and he ought to be convicted, if not of murder, 2nd degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. And the fact that when police came (to the shooting scene) it was not a homicide detective, but a drug detective and they allowed Mr. Zimmerman to leave the scene of the crime with a weapon. So, having seen all of that and being an African American who has grown up in America, who has a B.A., Masters, a law degree, who studied sociology — yes, I do think there is a Plantation Culture in Sanford.”