George Zimmerman is trending on Twitter again, and as usual, it’s not for anything good. Zimmerman, the man who killed unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin, is suing Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg for defamation over Tweets posted on what would’ve been Martin’s 25th birthday. Zimmerman is seeking $265 million (£205m) in damages.
On 5th February, Martin’s birthday, Warren tweeted saying that her heart goes out to Martin’s family on this day. Warren also called out the dangers of gun violence in the US, saying, “We need to end gun violence and racism. And we need to build a world where all of our children-especially young Black boys-can grow up safe and free.”
My heart goes out to @SybrinaFulton and Trayvon’s family and friends. He should still be with us today.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 6, 2020
We need to end gun violence and racism. And we need to build a world where all of our children—especially young Black boys—can grow up safe and free. https://t.co/9lXXlRnvzL
Earlier the same day, Buttigieg tweeted, “Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today. How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear? #BlackLivesMatter”
Now, Zimmerman is seeking nine figures of damages from both candidates with a lawsuit claiming Warren and Buttigieg “defamed Zimmerman for political gain in misguided and malicious attempts to bolster their standings amongst African-American voters, all at Zimmerman’s expense.” The suit also claims Warren and Buttigieg’s struggles to retain support from black voters led them to “disingenuously” state their support for #BlackLivesMatter, though multiple other public figures also tweeted support of Trayvon Martin’s family for his birthday.
Warren and Buttigieg have both faced criticism over their recent polling with black voters. During Buttigieg’s tenure as mayor of South Bend, police arrested black residents at over four times the rate of white residents over marijuana possession, a point which he was asked to address during the eighth Democratic debate in New Hampshire. But, Zimmerman’s lawsuit directly calls out two specific concerns that he relates to the defamation suit: First, recent reports from people of colour working on Buttigieg’s campaign staff alleging racism on their team; Second, the recent departure of six women of colour working for Warren in Nevada.
It is unclear how either of those points are related to the candidates’ respective tweets about Trayvon Martin in memory of his birthday, particularly since neither candidate mention George Zimmerman on Twitter.
In 2012, Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Martin while Martin was walking to his father’s house in the neighbourhood where Zimmerman volunteered for the neighbourhood watch. Martin’s death, and Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013, sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has spent his time living up to his reputation as an all-around terrible person, attempting to profit from Martin’s murder. In December, Zimmerman filed a lawsuit for damages totalling over $100 million (£77m) against Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, as well as anyone involved in the legal case against him that resulted in his acquittal. He’s also had his share of run-ins with the law, including two charges of domestic violence, not to mention violating Twitter’s rules by posting an ex’s nude photos.
Warren and Buttigieg’s campaigns have not yet commented on the lawsuit.
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