Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Hundreds took to the streets of Tallahassee to protest the death of a teen last year at a Florida boot camp and the state handling of the incident. Martin Lee Anderson was killed while in the custody of the Bay County Sheriff’s Department Boot Camp in January 2006. Anderson was 14 when he died at the now-closed Bay County Juvenile Boot Camp. He had been sent there for a probation violation and became lethargic during a physical fitness test shortly after arriving. An exercise yard videotape shows seven guards repeatedly hitting the boy with their fists and knees (see photo). The camp nurse is accused of watching but doing nothing during most of the 30-minute encounter.

"Everybody in the United States should be outraged," Beverlye Neal, executive director Florida State Conference NAACP, told BlackAmericaWeb.com Monday. "In 2007, we’re still dealing with blatant racism and no concern for black life. They kicked and brutalized that baby, a jury acquitted those people, and everybody should be up in arms."

According to a statement by the Florida State Conference, "The NAACP is outraged at the "not guilty" verdict rendered on Friday, October 12, 2007, by an all-white jury. This verdict acquitted the deputies and nurse who were responsible for the death of Martin Lee Anderson."

"The FSC NAACP has requested the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to investigate the circumstances surrounding the case bought by the State of Florida in Bay County, and more importantly, to follow up on the FSC NAACP’s initial request in March 2006, calling for the U.S. District Attorney in North Florida to conduct an investigation into and charge those responsible for the civil rights violations evident in Martin Lee Anderson’s death."

"We are putting word out that we are together in wanting something to be done, and we are asking that higher powers come in and look at this case," Pat Spencer of the NAACP told MyFoxTampa.

BlackAmerica Web reports that residents in the hometown of Anderson gathered at a local church recently and shared anger that the eight people accused of killing Anderson were acquitted by an all-white jury.

"In this country, we are spending millions of dollars to fight wars that we say are to bring human rights and justice to other countries, but we don't have those things right here," said Bob Clark, a Panama City resident who helped organize the church vigil.

The blog On The Black Hand Side writes:

The State of Florida awarded Martin Lee Anderson's parents millions in his death. That won't bring him back and that certainly was not sufficient resolution in this case. The future Martin Lee Andersons need to be spared from such a horrendous experience. The 30 minute video of the abuse of Martin Lee Anderson is difficult to watch. Even if he was in a juvenile facility, he did not deserve to be tortured to death.

The following is from the Orlando Sentinel.

Hundreds protest boot-camp death in Tallahassee

About 700 marchers shouted "We shall overcome" and "No justice, no peace" today to protest Florida's handling of a teenager's death after he was hit and kicked at a state boot camp last year.

They want federal authorities to investigate what they allege are civil rights violations by camp staffers and others, including Florida's former top law enforcement official.

The protest comes less than two weeks after an all-white jury in Panama City acquitted seven camp guards and a nurse of manslaughter charges in the death of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old black inmate.

A videotape showed guards repeatedly hitting his limp body and the nurse standing by watching at the military-style camp in Panama City. Anderson died a day later, Jan. 6, 2006, at a Pensacola hospital.

The U.S. Justice Department announced within hours of the Oct. 12 verdicts that it was reviewing the state's prosecution.

U.S. Attorney Gregory R. Miller and Justice Department officials met with some of the protesters inside the courthouse. The march began at Tallahassee's civic center and then went past the Florida Capitol.

The NAACP-sponsored protest also targeted former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell. He was Bay County's sheriff when his office founded the camp and now works as an investigator for the state attorney's office in the area.

The civil rights organization wants Tunnell investigated for allegedly trying to prevent the videotape from being made public, making racist remarks related to the case and inappropriately communicating with current Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen about the death. The sheriff's office ran the now-defunct boot camp under state supervision.

NAACP officials also alleged Tunnell has committed other civil rights violations unrelated to Anderson's death.

Joe Grammer, spokesman for State Attorney Steve Meadows, said Tunnell would not discuss the boot camp case. Tunnell is not authorized to speak to the media, Grammer said.

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