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Civil Rights March Over Boot Camp Death

Posted Oct 23, 2007 4:47 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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About 700 people marched on Tallahassee, Florida, today, to call for further investigation of the death last year of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old black teen being held at a military-style "boot camp" for juvenile inmates.

Speaking to marchers at the federal courthouse, Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida NAACP, said she had been trying for a year to interest the U.S. Department of Justice in pursuing a civil rights case over Anderson's death, reports the News-Press.

"If he did anything, he didn't tell me," she said of U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller of the Northern District of Florida. "He had a year."

Although a videotape shows the unresisting youth being struck by guards with their fists and knees as a nurse stood by (Anderson died the next day because he was forced to inhale ammonia, prosecutors contended), an all-white jury in Panama City acquitted seven guards and the nurse of manslaughter less than two weeks ago, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.

The marchers want the Justice Department to pursue civil rights charges in the case--as it has been considering doing.

Responding earlier this month, after the acquittals were announced, Miller and Rena Comisac, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in statement that they would examine "all of the evidence, including the state trial transcripts, and take appropriate action if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes," reports the Sun-Sentinel.

However, many in the crowd reportedly were critical of the effort made by the federal government to prosecute Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons superstar quarterback, in a dogfighting case that allegedly involved animal abuse, while seemingly dragging its feet, relatively speaking, on Anderson's case, reports the Associated Press

Read one sign at today's protest: "Kill a dog and go to jail. Kill a black child and get off free."

In fact, although Vick has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in the federal dogfighting case, he hasn't yet been sentenced, as another ABAJournal.com post discusses.

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