How Not to Protest the Killing of Trayvon Martin

Whenever there's a brutality claim against a police officer, or a brutality claim made against  someone who thinks they are an officer, it's fairly common to see that person's math published on the internet. It happened in this comment section here when a UC Davis security officer pepper-sprayed a group of protesters last November.

There are many reasons why this is a bad idea. Among them, as is the case in most vigilantism, you well might miss your target and clip someone else. To wit:

With Twitter and Facebook continuing to explode with posts purporting to contain the address of George Zimmerman, property records and interviews reveal that the home is actually the longtime residence of a married Florida couple, both in their 70s, who have no connection to the man who killed Trayvon Martin and are now living in fear due to erroneous reports about their connection to the shooter. 

The mass dissemination of the address on Edgewater Circle in Sanford -- the Florida city where Martin was shot to death last month--took flight last Friday when director Spike Lee retweeted a tweet containing Zimmerman's purported address to his 240,000 followers. 

The original tweet was sent to Lee (and numerous other celebrities like Will Smith, 50 Cent, and LeBron James) last Friday afternoon by Marcus Davonne Higgins, a 33-year-old Los Angeles man who uses the online handle "maccapone." Higgins included the direction, "EVERYBODY REPOST THIS."

Higgins's dissemination of Zimmerman's purported Edgewater Circle address was not, however, limited to cyberspace. At a protest rally last Thursday in an L.A. park near his Crenshaw home, Higgins held a sign containing Zimmerman's name, address, and phone number. 

 Except, of course, none were accurate. The man who shot Martin is George Michael Zimmerman. Higgins has repeatedly identified him as "George W. Zimmerman." 

The residence on Edgewater Circle is actually the home of David McClain, 72, and his wife Elaine, 70. The McClains, both of whom work for the Seminole County school system, have lived in the 1310-square-foot lakefront home for about a decade, records show.
The elderly couple is now, with good reason, living in fear that some nut-job will pay them a visit. It goes without saying that mass protest will always attract it share of fools, some of them potentially violent. But such fools should be loudly and forthrightly denounced. This goes for Higgins, and it goes for those who would bounty on George Zimmerman's head, and thus answer the problem of vigilantism with more vigilantism. (The fate of "new" Black Panther who set the bounty is unsurprising.)

Nothing concerning the effort to bring justice to the family of Trayvon Martin involves disseminating the personal information of a Florida elderly couple. That it was done by mistake is likely of no comfort to them. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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