By Dave Stancliff/for the Times-Standard
For the first time in my sixty plus years, the phrase “Power to the People” is more than just a slogan. When I was a teenager in the sixties, it seemed like every group was using it. The Black Panthers, hippies and radicals had that in common.
It’s not like people didn’t join them, it’s just that most of the time the slogan was more of a siren call than anything really effecting change. The hippie’s philosophy of free love and flowers floating in air faded away with too many LSD trips, quietly disappearing into the “Me” seventies.
The radicals, like the “Weather Underground” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_Underground) called on anarchists and disenfranchised minorities to wage war in America’s streets. Their version of people power was more like a scene from the apocalypse. In the end the group perished in a fiery shootout with police.
Then there were the Black Panthers. Their message of “Power to the People” carried revolutionary tones and called for a new society where African-Americans would be treated equally. Their mission was to help struggling black communities.
African Americans are still fighting a race war for equality. The killing of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old black male, by a neighborhood watch captain
highlights the deep racial divide that exists in Sanford, Florida and other parts of the country today.
His senseless death last month also proved something else; people have found a way to protest injustice and get results though the power of social media like FaceBook and Twitter. Both have galvanized millions to protest Martin’s death, forcing the local sheriff to step aside for a special investigation by a DA from another county. The FBI began a "parallel investigation" on April 2, focusing on whether Martin’s civil rights were violated.
The Justice Department got involved at the request of Martin’s parents. They want the Justice Department to look into possible interference with the Sanford police investigation by State Attorney Norm Wolfinger's office.
When Martin was killed it wasn’t front page news in Sanford. Despite having his cell phone, the police didn’t even contact his parents to notify them of his death. After three days the parents thought their son was missing and called the police for help. That’s when they were informed of his death.
It wasn’t until someone tweeted a short message about a 17-year old boy shot dead by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, that word started circulating about the circumstances of Martin’s death. When people discovered Zimmerman hadn’t been arrested, they started asking questions; like why? They’re still asking that question today.
Millions of Americans have united to seek justice for Trayvon Martin. Instead of being a footnote in a small town newspaper, his case has cast doubt about the fairness of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law and put a spotlight on the racial divide that exists in Sanford.
If it wasn’t for social media, I don’t think you would have heard about this young man’s death and the ensuing injustice of letting his killer walk free after a few questions downtown.
The on-scene investigator, Chris Serino, filed an affidavit on the night of the shooting stating he was unconvinced by Zimmerman's account, according to ABC News.
Whatever physical evidence that did exist (like his clothing), walked out with Zimmerman the night of the shooting. No blood samples were taken to see if he was drinking alcohol. Nothing. His word was good enough to let him walk.
That is, until people started talking on FaceBook and Twitter. A perfect example of the power that common citizens now have. Another example, is what happened with the Susan B. Komen Foundation when they tried to play politics and not fund Planned Parenthood. The backlash is still being felt as the foundation struggles to recover lost donations, membership, and credibility with women across the country.
I trace this new found recognition of people power to last year’s so-called “Arab Spring,” and the Egyptian uprising that toppled the government of Hosni Mubarak.
Since then, a new found confidence has sprung up worldwide, as citizens feel more empowered. A good example of how to tap into that power can be found at Change.org, a website with a platform dedicated to letting anyone start a petition.
For better or worse, people can organize almost instantly now, and get their message across loud and clear. Standing on street corners and waving signs, hoping people will notice and perhaps honk their horns in support, doesn’t cut it in this new age of technology.
The age of people power is here. You are part of a revolution that will forever change the way things are done by local and national governments.
As It Stands, it’s exciting to see the ascension of the common man, but now the question is; where will it eventually lead us?