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Monday, April 30, 2012

Did Gated Community ‘Groupthink’ Play A Role In Trayvon Martin’s Shooting?

The home of George Zimmerman at the Retreat of Twin Lakes neighborhood in Sanford, Fla. (AP)

The death of Trayvon Martin has raised a lot of questions, including this one: Why is a child dead? For author Rich Benjamin the answer is not racism, he says that would reduce the shooting.

He says the more accurate answer is gated communites. Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in the gated retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford, Florida, and Benjamin says such communities exacerbate biased treatment against the young, the colored and the presumably poor.

As he writes in the New York Times:

Gated communities churn a vicious cycle by attracting like-minded residents who seek shelter from outsiders and whose physical seclusion then worsens paranoid groupthink against outsiders. These bunker communities remind me of those Matryoshka wooden dolls. A similar-object-within-a-similar-object serves as shelter; from community to subdivision to house, each unit relies on staggered forms of security and comfort, including town authorities, zoning practices, private security systems and personal firearms.

“Here George Zimmerman is having shot an unarmed black teenager who never confronted him in the first place. What is the mentality behind that? It is a gated community bunker mentality,” Benjamin told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

But MIT grad student Zach Youngerman has another take — he writes in the Boston Globe that the neighborhood’s design may have been a factor:

Most of the Retreat at Twin Lakes lacks a conventional sidewalk – a public pedestrian thoroughfare parallel to vehicle traffic but protected by a curb. Together with a landscaped tree belt, parking lanes, and occasionally bike lanes, sidewalks and roads make up what is called the public right of way. Without public rights of way, we would all be constantly having to trespass on private land or pay tolls to get anywhere. This was the situation Martin faced inside and outside the gated subdivision.

Youngerman said that driveways replace front doors and porches and “a human interface with the street.” He also points out that less than two percent of the population in Sanford walks to work, and much of the area has been designed with cars in mind.

“Walking is an equalizer and when we’re stuck in our cars there’s a defense put up,” he said.


  • Rich Benjamin, is a senior fellow at Demos a non-partisan research center. He’s also author of “Searching for Whitopia: an Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America.”
  • Zach Youngerman, graduate student of city planning, city development and design at MIT

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Thinkin15

    In another neighborhood it might have been Zimmerman who looked out of place and suspicious.

    • Jimi Cyber

      But would Zimmerman be followed and shot?

      • Thinkin15

         He might have if he was unarmed and a guy like Zimmerman came along. Maybe people in gated communities should all wear a communal t-shirt so that all know who the “outsiders” are. Guests could get security gate issued t-shirts of a different color with big “APPROVED GUEST” on the front and back of them.

        • Mike

           Funny you say that, our HOA board members were going door to door handing out stickers to put on the back of our cars so that we know who is part of the neighborhood and who is not.  Redic.

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      It’s ironic that the media almost always describes Zimmerman as “white” rather than as Hispanic, turning this into a racial incident rather than a tragic confrontation between two minorities.

  • ToyYoda

    My parents have a summer home in a gated community in Orlando Florida, which is south and adjacent to Sanford.  I disagree with both writers.  There is neither fear nor a bunker mentality in gated neighborhood nor have I felt that way going in other gated communities around Florida that I have visited.  My experience has been quite pleasant and I am a dark skin minority.  In fact, when I last went their, a girlscout was walking about selling cookies.

    Getting to the point of (forgot the phrase) “cosy community” as a euphemism for us against them.  I can see this being misconstrued as an ad to attract us-against-them tribal mentality, but his is very much a stretch.  In the gated communities that I’ve  been in, this phrase is to advertise for a friendly and social neighbors.

    Anyways, I think the whole thing is quite overblown by the media.

    • Jimi Cyber

      The individual can almost always feel different until they have an incident.  If you are dark skinned as you say, then you have either not been aware of your incidents or are blind to what is happening around you.  Many people who are dark and of different social classes can point out numerous things that have happened to them because of their skin tone.  Of course, those who deny these incidents are doing others a disservice and helping to retard progress towards eliminating the antiquated and vile racial classification system that is contrived to oppress and is unscientific.  One other thing, you should have been here during my youth when racism was more overt and all “people of color” were targeted.

      • ToyYoda

        I’m not sure how you can first question my color, then know the state of my awareness or even my eye sight when you haven’t even met me. Yes people who deny racial incidents are doing the public a disservice, but those who blow things out of proportion do an equal disservice.

        Now, I am aware and I can see what is going around me, and I can tell you that it hasn’t happened in the neighborhoods that I’ve been in. If you want to deny *my* experience, my sanity, and my eyesight, then there is not much to discuss with you. Now, I can’t speak for your history, and I am sorry for the racial experiences that you have had.

        The original subject matter was about gated communities and my reply addresses that. I brought up my ethnicity just to emphasize a point in the context of the subject matter.

    • Nikki

      “Overblown by the media”? How? A kid is dead for no real reason. He walked to the 7/11, bought candy, walked home, was followed, harassed and killed in cold blood, and the killer wasn’t arrested for a month and a half. He never made it home, and it all happened in a so-called “safe” gated community. It’s not like he was in the hood and got caught in a drive-by, the damn neighborhood watch captain killed him. That’s the thing about this story, it could happen to anyone. I doubt you’d call it “overblown” if it was your child.

  • Terri Callaway

    About the idea of making neighborhoods with sidewalks and houses with porches:  we no longer have people sitting on front porches in the south because of air conditioning, TV, and working mothers who have chores to do at night. 

    • Jimi Cyber

      Coming from the northeast, it’s a strange feeling walking through one of these gated areas and the only others walking are the house servants who have come in by bus. 

  • Chado

    I was a resident of Hilton Head, South Carolina for 8 years.   I don’t think that we felt like we were in a bunker.  Because it is private property they hire their own security officers, I know the officers had similar training to police and if there was a situation they would be more inclined to use nonlethal protection not a gun.  I don’t know if I ever saw machine guns on any of the security guards on they Island in the time I lived there, that seems like a stretch. I really loved my house there and would live there again.

  • Kcstott00

    I’d like to say that you use of the term”machine gun” was grossly incorrect. No private security agency that operates inside the United States is authorized to use fully automatic weapons. Even the weapon the local police use are not ” machine guns” as you and your guest put it. The correct term is a “long gun” they are not assault rifles, they are not machine guns they are long guns pure and simple as these weapons are the exact same weapons that can be bought and possessed be the average citizen.

    Please do everyone a favor as NPR and Wbur does a great job at keeping the story on topic and not putting a spin on the real issue. The use of the term machine gun can mis lead the public and quite frankly scare the hell out of people.

    I would appreciate a formal correction

    • Jimi Cyber

      Maybe someone who saw this weapon can comment.    Why assume?

      • Kcstott00

        Read the full post. Civilian use of class III firearms (full auto) For use as a security element is Illegal in the US. And showing what you know about weapons you can not tell if a weapon is full auto or not buy it’s outward appearance alone. You have to know exactly what to look for and that means the weapon must be in the hands of the examiner to be sure. I’m a Toolmaker, Gunsmith and Firearms Expert

  • Jcalucchia

    I and my young daughter, lived in a gated community in Southern Indiana for 8 yrs in the late 80′s early 90′s. I loved it! People were friendly and helpful. Many of the residents were highly educated people who had moved to the area from other states for employment . As a single woman, I did not have to worry about men following me home. We didn’t have sidewalks but many of us walked. 
    I would hate to see the government start trying to regulate gated communities. They are trying to regulate too much of our lives as it is. (and I’m not a Republican)

  • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

    “Clearly assumptions were made”

    Mostly by this biased commentator, who insists that Zimmerman initiated the confrontation. 

    What we know at this date is that Zimmerman was physically assaulted and that it may well have been Martin who made the first confrontational verbal contact.

    This was hardly the exclusive community that “gated” suggests. It was racially-mixed and lower middle class. It had also suffered from 8 burglaries, 9 thefts, one home invasion and one shooting in just the previous year, most of which were perpetrated by young black males.

    Zimmerman’s suspicions were perfectly legitimate, and there is no evidence that he exceeded responsible limits in any of his behavior.

    • Yvettec

      Mr. Martin may well have made the first confrontational verbal contact, but what would you do if you were being followed?  Would you ‘stand your ground’ or not?  Who is the true perpetrator?  Had Mr. Martin been armed, would he have been justified to shoot?

      • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

        What I would do is hardly relevant (though I would not likely have confronted anyone except with a polite question to disarm the situation), but the evidence also suggests that Martin initiated the physical confrontation, which is what caused the escalation.

        Standing your ground is not the same thing as verbal and physical escalation of violence.

        If Martin had been armed he would have been legally justified (which is not the same thing as morally justified) to shoot ONLY if felt he was in immediate danger of great bodily harm or death. But I doubt that even Florida issues concealed weapons permits to minors.

  • Midwest resident

    As an academic who has studied gated communities, they are completely unregulated and do not have to adhere to any democratic values at all.  They face no more accountability than other nonprofit organizations who are running your YMCA or theatre.  But this is far more dangerous than running a nonprofit organization.   Voting is done by unit, not individually. They regulate behavior that inhibits democratic participation such as display of political signs and holding political meetings in common areas.   The benefits of a democracy are when different kinds of people have opportunities to share their experiences, deliberate, debate and reach a common understanding.  Homeowner associations encourage us to divide, typically along socio-economic lines thereby discouraging or even limiting interaction with each other.  Another reason I am personally against gated communities in particular is it does create this false sense of security.  So instead of investing and trusting the communities we have created with a public government and public police force, we turn our lives over to private developers and private security guards. 

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      Voting is done by unit, not individually. They regulate behavior that inhibits democratic participation such as display of political signs and holding political meetings in common areas.”

      As an academic, I’m surprised that you would confuse two very different kinds and levels of democratic participation.

      Prohibiting political signs and meetings about state or national elections is a way to avoid divisiveness within the community. Voting within the community would be unreasonable if done in any other way than one unit one vote.  Why should a large family have more say than a single mom?

  • Dan smith

    I grew up in the Bronx, and now live in a gated community in Texas. A lot of people here are terrified. They own guns and their houses are alarmed, and will call the police at the mere sight of a perceived stranger in the proximity of the neighborhood. Once, the sheriff was called when a man walked down the street, and he was OUTSIDE the gate. Once I leave here (I am military) and go back to northeast, I will never live in a gated community again.

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      That’s Texas. 

  • Andrewforsythe05

    Please correct your mistake of saying a guard had a machine gun. If you don’t know the difference between weapons like a semi automatic rifle and machine gun you should take steps to educate your as a journalist.

    Also could you attempt to be unbiased and not let your guests present their opinions as facts?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

      OK, first of all, you seem to be directing your remarks to Derrick Z. Jackson, who wrote a Boston Globe article linked to this hereandnow piece, so it would be helpful if you’d post there rather than here. The hereandnow piece includes no reference to “machine guns.” 
      You are also confused about time frame. The Globe article referenced Jackson’s experience 25 years ago in South Carolina. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (which, at that time, included automatic rifles — classified prior to the ban as “machine guns”) was enacted in 1994. In 1987, it is not unlikely that an armed guard would be carrying such a weapon.
      Why do you see bias in memoir?

  • Sue Moss

    I live in a gated community not 25 miles south of Sanford, Fl.  I do not feel safe.  I have no man waving us through, we have a clicker like a garage door opener.  We have some sidewalks, but mostly streets.  I  have a little dog and am frequently out walking at all times of the day and night. I carry no gun.  We have whites and blacks in our community and over 200 condominium units built on streets that are circles or arcs.  Our units are built  like townhouses and one story flats, about 6 units attached to one another.  The newer units have garages.  We keep front doors open or closed and do go in and out the garage, but also in and out the front door.  Many of  us have storm doors to let in the light in the front and keep the door open during the day.  I object to the MIT student’s characterization of “feeling safer in gated communities”.  Light rail was approved in this area and is in the process of being constructed now, contrary to what your MIT student said.  Our bus system is not sufficient to get us to where most work as we are all spread out, thus cars and the car mentality that goes along with it.  Front porches exist in some older homes in the area and in Celebration and Baldwin Park.  I bet the people who live there feel as safe as the rest population at large and those living in gated communities.

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      Generalizations are convenient ways to make an argument, but rarely reflect the whole truth.

  • U_barnea

    I believe it was Alexander Pope who said that” Oceans both divide continernts AND link them.” Very true. However, walls, unlike oceans, are only intended to separate people and communities from one another. In the ancient world, walls were a commen mean of protection from outside enemies (e.g., The Great Wall of China; the old city of Jerusalem, etc.) Therefore, the term “Gated community” itself is a misnomer: Such communities try (hard) to highlight  “the gate”, i.e., the opening to those communities, and refrain from mentioning the REAL problem which is the wall, the separating wall. In other words, such communities should not be termed as “gated communities”, but rather as “walled comminities.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

      Yes, agreed. And remember also the fence-builder in Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall”:
      “In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me.”Darkness indeed.

      • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

        Frost more famously said “good fences make good neighbors”. Why do you ignore the core message of his poem?

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

          “Ignore”? Come now. Please read the poem. Frost quotes his unenlightened neighbor, who says “good fences make good neighbors.” Frost is refuting that logic.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            That poem was a lullaby, recited to me by my mother some 50 years ago. Yes, Frost raises the mischievous notion that fences may not always be needed and should have a purpose, but nevertheless he helps mend them every year in neighborly ritual:

            But at spring mending-time we find them there.
            I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
            And on a day we meet to walk the line
            And set the wall between us once again.
            We keep the wall between us as we go.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

            This is fun. I haven’t discussed lit crit of “Mending Wall” for many years. Yes, it does have a lilting, lullaby quality. Frost is accessible and well-loved, the Billy Collins of his day.

            But I must insist that the old proverb, “fences make good neighbors,” is antithetical to Frost’s meaning in the poem. A core metaphor:”Before I built a wall I’d ask to knowWhat I was walling in or walling outAnd to whom I was like to give offense.”

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            And I equally insist that it is not, or he would not acknowledge being the one to annually engage his neighbor in fence repair, the very act of which maintains neighborliness, even if the reason for the wall remains unconsidered.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

            I just noticed your reference to Vermont. Maybe we were once neighbors ourselves. I built a stone wall — hard work, that. It was to keep my dog in. It didn’t work. But Frost — yes, Middlebury College, just before my time.

  • NaClDog

    I am a merchant mariner from the West Coast. Once I spent 2 months in Jacksonville, FL, at a shipyard.

    I  would walk around town, to the grocer, to see a movie, to the newsstand… It was amazing, but car after car would stop to give me a ride. People just didn’t walk. If they were just going around the block or to the next strip mall, they got in thier car. AMAZING! Everyone was very nice, but they all thought I must be in trouble because I was without a car???

    Perhaps a person is suspicious, if they are walking? Certainly if they are black, wearing a hoodie, and walking!

    Hey I’ve got an idea: How about we give cop wannabies/flunkies, with no training, and perhaps marginal personalities, firearms? Then the state will have-their-back by writing laws that allow them to shoot if they are scared. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

    I sure am glad that I live on the West Coast!   

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      I’ve got a better idea: How about we don’t make unsupported assumptions about someone like Zimmerman, particularly when his life history is available on line and it looks nothing at all like your deliberately distorted description.

      Zimmerman has a long history of befriending blacks and other marginalized people, protecting kids from bullying, and even mentoring two black teens when he was finishing his degree in criminal justice (hardly a flunky).  He was an altar boy and maintained a life-long commitment to helping others and serving his community. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

      • NaClDog

        Regardless of his possibly sincere good intentions, he was way out of his league. He got in the face of a kid walking down the street with candy, after he was ordered by professional law-enforcement personnel to back-off. Emotions took over, perhaps on both of their parts, and, voila!

        My point is, if everyone is carrying guns, this type of event is going to happen. I’m not blaming Zimmerman, I think there is a larger systemic failure here.  


        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          You continue to make assumptions that have no basis in what has been reported about this incident, which indicates a prejudice on your part (or a failure to properly inform yourself, or both).

          “Out of his league”? As someone who had just finished (but for one class) a degree in criminal justice, that statement is hard to justify.

          Zimmerman was not “ordered” by anyone, let alone by “professional law-enforcement personnel” to back off. He was advised by a dispatcher, who typically are not law enforcement officers, that “we don’t need you to do that”. 

          There is nothing in the record to suggest that “emotions took over” for Zimmerman, who was merely trying to keep a suspect in view so that he could point him out to the police. There is evidence, however, to suggest that Martin lost his cool and both initiated a verbal confrontation and then a physical confrontation, injuring Zimmerman and putting him in fear for his life.  

          I’m a supporter of reasonable gun controls, and particularly keeping them off city streets which can too quickly erupt into mob violence. But here in Vermont, we have the most lax gun laws in the nation, a tradition of hunting and gun ownership, and the lowest violent crime rate as well.

          I agree there are systemic issues, not least being the militarization of the police, the criminalization of non-violent and victimless crimes (particularly drug use), the racial and class discrepancies in arrest, sentencing and imprisonment, the absurdity that we have the largest prison population (both absolutely and per capita) in the world, the privatization of prisons, AND the Stand Your Ground laws which encourage vigilante justice and the abuse of the self-defense justification.

          But I also believe that none of those are pertinent in the tragedy of Trayvon Martin except the SYG law which makes it all but impossible for the police and prosecutors to make a case for arrest.

          • Yvettec

            Dispatchers are presumably trained in safety and he was told by the dispatcher to stop following Mr. Martin.  Likely because, not being a police officer, he was viewed to be ‘out of his league’.  Situations can escalate in an instance, and police officers are not immune to this.  Mr Zimmerman was being asked by others who knew better not to get to a place where things could escalate.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            Zimmerman was given advice, not an order, by the dispatcher: “We don’t need you to do that”.

            Because many of the burglars in the neighborhood had gotten away (“These assholes they always get away.”), Zimmerman apparently made the decision to keep the suspect within eyesight so that he could point the police in the right direction. That was not an unreasonable thing to do.

          • Jacky

             yes, it an advice, not an order, George Zimmerman could choice to ignore the advice. but his action of following the boy did not go according to your assumption of ‘ keep the suspect within eyesight’, as he did not places a safe distance between him and the boy. As the fact that they both had an confrontation. Furthermore your assumption that he wish to be able to kept the police office inform about the suspect position, is also spotty, in the audio recording Zimmerman had display his inability to properly report his position and the suspect.
            There are furthermore more questions, firstly do Zimmerman have a full comprehensive knowledge about his neighbors? can he spot who is his neighbors or otherwise? did he identify himself during the confrontation? If he did identify himself as a neighborhood watch captain, why is there still the exchange of blow between the two young individual.
            one more thing Robert Riversong, you fail to analysis and take into consideration of
            Trayvon Martin situation. he had spotted an individual that was following him in a vehicle at night in a strange environment.
            question such as, did Martin felt that his was been corner? did he feel that there is a need for self defense? plz remember that in certain case offense action is the best defensive action. (try to corner a stray cat that does not know u) (p.s. it would be painful for you) (there is a video clip about the consequences)

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            You’re making assumptions that have no basis in the known facts.

      • Bushywhacky

        all the trouble he kept getting into ?

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          Yours is typical of non-specific and unsubstantiated statements based on prejudice rather than facts.

          Zimmerman was arrested but not convicted of assault on an undercover alcohol control officer who, unidentifed in plain clothes, was trying to bust Zimmerman’s friend in a bar. Zimmerman defended his friend by pushing the unidentified officer. That demonstrates Zimmerman’s loyalty and willingness to protect others more than any other quality.

          The only other “trouble” was matching domestic assault complaints between him and his girlfriend – a common incident during breakups.

          The overall picture, however, of George Zimmerman is one who befriends and protects the marginalized, and serves his community.

          It’s also worth noting that, after his altercation with Martin, Zimmerman threw his gun on the ground, put his hands up in the air, and asked witnesses to call the police.

          • Bushywhacky

            He befriends, protects the marginalized in his gated community and then shoots them.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            Now that you’ve proven yourself to be a Troll and a moron, you can go back to whacking your bush.

      • Velemadrid

        COME ON?!…SURELY YOU GEST?! You use the words, “blacks and
        other marginalized people” in the same sentence!? Do you realize you sound just
        like a BIGOT???? You’ve stereotyped many different groups of people in 4 little words…
        The rest of the world doesn’t see us as Black, White, and Latino; they all see
        us as Americans. To some, this makes us look weak and easily divided!  No wonder the likes of Osama Bin Ladin think that we are weak and vulnerable!
        You claim he was hero for under privileged
        children?! This man did not have a college degree; he has been in college since
        2003! He was attempting to obtain an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice
        when he was put out of school.  He has
        been in college 9 years, should have been a PhD, but he still can’t finish. More
        than likely he was betting on getting a job on the police force, the very force where he assaulted a police officer. No wonder that college jumped at any chance to put him out; who could he possible mentor??? 
        I’m sorry but Zimmerman is deranged, but I will give my life to defend your right of free speech  and the your right to bear arms! 


        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          You’re one month late on the draw and still able to do little more than shoot yourself in the foot after putting your foot in your mouth.

          A bigot is some one who believes that blacks and Hispanics deserve to be marginalized. An idiot is one who believes they’re not.

          I didn’t “claim he was a hero”, but if you need to create a straw man in order to have something small enough for you to shoot down, that only indicates your own weakness and cowardice.

          You’re either confused or lying. It was Martin who was thrown out of school. Zimmerman would have completed his AA in criminal justice if the New Black Panthers hadn’t put a price on his head.

          Zimmerman began his studies in 2009 (not 2003) and attended the graduation in Dec, 2011, even though he was still one credit short of completion.

          In 2004, Zimmerman partnered with an African-American friend and opened up an Allstate insurance satellite office. He had a long history of befriending, defending and working with blacks – in fact his great grandfather was black.

          I don’t care for the outcome of Zimmerman’s actions, but I’ll take a decent man like Zimmerman over a blindly patriotic fool like you in a heartbeat.

          No one has ever defended my right to free speech but me and those who have died right here on our own land in the struggle for justice.

          • Velemadrid

            I’m sorry but Zimmerman is deranged, but
            I will defend your right of free speech to the death! Freedom is Not Free! This
            is the Land of The Free Because of the Brave!

            “College Expels George Zimmerman Following Trayvon Martin


            Zimmerman, 28, first enrolled at the college in 2003 and was
            working toward a vocational certificate to become an insurance agent. He
            re-enrolled in 2009 and was working toward an Associate in Arts degree in a
            general studies program, according to the college.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            The community college was forced to ask Zimmerman not to return to complete his last credit, because of “safety concerns”.  The administration was not concerned about Zimmerman presenting a safety threat, but those deranged “patriots” like you who put a price on his head and turned a simple case of self-defense into a media circus.

            What part of reality can’t you comprehend? Zimmerman took classes in 2003 to get his insurance agent certificate – which he did, and then went into business as an independent agent. He much later enrolled in a completely different program for criminal justice. He has not ” been in college since 2003!”

            And, if you suffer under the delusion that America’s “brave fighting boys” have ever done anything to protect or enhance American freedom, you are truly insane. All America’s foreign interventions have resulted only in more hatred of America and more terrorists intent on revenge.

            The CIA even had to invent a term – blowback – for this because it was so common. 9/11 was blowback for US support for Israel against the rights of the native Palestinians and for basing US troops in the Holy Land of Mecca and Medina (Saudi Arabia).

            The seizure of the US embassy staff in Iran in 1979 was blowback for allowing  Shah Palevi into the US for hospital treatment. The whole Iranian theocracy was blowback for America’s years of support of the brutal Pahlevi family reign.

            The Taliban and al Qaeda jihad is blowback for the US abandonment of the mujahadeen after we used them to force the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, and then for returning ourselves to make that nation safe for UNOCAL’s pipeline.

  • Tom

    I live just south of Sanford, FL. The news outlets here in Central Florida are very much like tabloids in the way news is presented – the majority of the stories center around the sensational. That people here have a “bunker mentality” is no mystery if you hear the fear-mongering approach taken with every story, even the weather.

    There are several other cases like this across the US involving people who do not live in gated communities. Everyone is vulnerable to this form of what is not unlike brainwasing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

      So true. I know a woman who lives in a secure building in a small town in a region that has virtually no violent crime. She watches a lot of TV (much of it beamed from the U.S.) and lives in fear.

  • Learning Everyday

    It’s been my fundamental experience that the more isolated and clannish we choose to be, and I use the word choose carefully, the less challenged we are to think outside of our world and the more comfortable we become with our own prejudices. I have witnessed with dismay the fear of some friends when I am driving with them in a black neighborhood, and can only imagine how one of them might nervously react if they carried a gun and saw an unidentified African American person approaching them or their home. Everyone has the right to protect themselves and their families, but people also have an obligation to make responsible choices. That process takes education and judgment and exposure to the entire world . . . 
    not running away from others who do not live exactly as we do. 

  • exnicios

    Is Zimmerman’s gated community qualitatively different to  high rise apartment buildings in large cities, or even hotels,  which limit access and  employ security guards who limit access and questions those who they believe don’t belong in the apartment building  or hotel?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

      That’s a thought-provoking question. I can see similarities (limited access) but also significant differences.
      Apartment living typically involves a common parking lot or garage, a common lobby, common elevators, laundry rooms and so on; so residents (except perhaps the penthousers with private facilities) must rub shoulders in daily life.I think, also, that the demographic might be different — e.g., seclusion with like-minded people and avoidance of others might play into choosing a gated community, but with choosing an apartment — not so much. I’m imagining (no stats at hand) that gated communities might, on average, house more-affluent people with, perhaps, more toys (boats and RVs and motorcycles and such) and more anxiety over their material goods? High-rise folks would have fewer toys, I think, and perhaps less to be anxious about?

  • Christie McGetrick

    Hello, I am an urban planner by trade and just wanted to let you all know that the design grad student from MIT is not really providing any new information.  The Congress for New Urbanism and the American Planning Association have been producing reports, discussions, etc about neighborhood design – featuring sidewalks, front porches, etc.  It’s called or was Neotraditional planning.  You may want to contact either of these two groups as this has been an ongoing discussion for the past 15 years. 

    News in this segment was tying Trayvon Martin’s murder to gated communities.  Very interesting.  Planners have been decrying these gated communities for years as a boon to community building.

  • 5thcolumnist

    I would really like to have statistics made available on how many of the “terrified” population living in gated enclaves and arming themselves against perceived threats have ever – EVER – actually been personally assaulted, robbed, threatened, etc. My guess is that the real basis for arming oneself against and sealing oneself off from fantasized theats by individuals or gangs of marauders are completely derived from the media: violent movies and television, over-heated news coverage of random events, online rants by demented conspiracy theorists, and misguided macho hero worship based on low self-esteem that is happily fueled by the commercial firearms lobby.
    The populace who confronts real danger daily are in inner cities where firearms do much of the harm, and is entirely dependent on public law enforcement to keep them safe, as much as possible. Does the NRA lobby for increased gun ownership in those Congressional districts…?

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      The residents of the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford (where Trayvon was shot) experienced eight burglaries, nine robberies, one home invasion and one shooting in just 2011 alone. And, according to several residents, the perpetrators were almost always young black males.

      Yet, the majority of residents did not arm themselves, but chose to create a neighborhood watch group and asked George Zimmerman to lead it. Zimmerman and his wife took handgun training and purchased weapons only after a pit bull had been threatening both residents and other dogs in his community. He considered buying pepper spray, but a police officer told him that it would take too long to immobilize the dog and that he should instead get a gun. 

      • 5thcolumnist

        Thanks for the addt’l. info – it doesn’t sound like this gated community was “gated” (protected) at all… unless the perpetrators were all residents, as well. Great thing to pretend to protect yourself from the “outside” world when all you have done is gated in a portion of the general population and imagine yourself safe from “others”…

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          I should have added that, according to the residents, the perpetrators were all strangers to the community, which explains why Zimmerman would have been legitimately suspicious of a young, black, male stranger, apparently walking aimlessly in the rain while talking on a cell phone, avoiding the sidewalks and streets and looking around as if he was casing the joint.

          • 5thcolumnist

            Y’know, I just read some of your other replies wherein you repeatedly accuse the initial poster of making “unsupported assumptions” based on what you consider to be unsubstantiated claims. So, what exactly do you base this statement on:
            “Zimmerman would have been legitimately suspicious of a young, black, male stranger, apparently walking aimlessly in the rain while talking on a cell phone, avoiding the sidewalks and streets and looking around as if he was casing the joint”?

            You accuse others of bias towards the victim and/or against the shooter, but you are clearly defending the latter on YOUR preconceptions and bias in terms of the actual events that occurred that night, or on a fluffed up version of the saintly nature of the good Watchman. Or has Zimmerman already testified in this case at trial, and I totally missed it…?

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            I came to the incident with no preconceptions and have downloaded more than 80 pages (35,000 words) of news articles as well as reading every opinion piece I could find on the subject, most of which were extremely biased and misrepresented the facts as reported.

            The statement you quote is based on the reported facts, evidence, eye-witness and resident accounts, as well as on a thorough investigation by Reuters News Service on Zimmerman’s life history (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/25/us-usa-florida-shooting-zimmerman-idUSBRE83O18H20120425).

            If you had read my posts above (or the published news), then you’d be aware that the residents of the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford (where Trayvon was shot) experienced eight burglaries, nine robberies, one home invasion and one shooting in just 2011 alone. And, according to several residents (both black and white), the perpetrators were almost always young black males.

            Zimmerman, as you should well know, has not yet testified in court, but he did give a statement to the police which was largely corroborated by witnesses at the scene and by the forensic evidence.

            As a radical progressive, who has spent a lifetime (I’m 60) working for peace and justice, including racial justice, if I had any bias it would be in favor of the young black victim of this tragedy. But, unlike almost everyone else, I investigated the incident and the background material and legal context before coming to an educated opinion. The rest of the world rushed to judgement and created an atmosphere that makes justice almost impossible.

      • Jacky

         u do understand that the neighborhood watch idea was given by George Zimmerman, and he is the first and only to volunteer to participant in the neighborhood watch program.

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          Reuters, Wed Apr 25, 2012: 

          In September (2011), Zimmerman was asked to head up a new neighborhood watch.

          The Retreat at Twin Lakes e-newsletter for February 2012 noted: “If you’ve been a victim of a crime in the community, after calling police, please contact our captain, George Zimmerman.”

          Tampa Bay Times: 

          “In September, the Sanford police helped the Retreat start a neighborhood watch program. ‘Some residents called me wanting to do a startup,’ said Dorival, a civilian police employee. About 30 people came to the clubhouse for that first session, she said. ‘Everyone was enthusiastic.’ Zimmerman volunteered to be captain.”

          Frank Taaffe was a former neighborhood block captain in the same neighborhood who was interviewed by CNN after the incident.

    • Mikeymoore97

      Actually, if you look at the NRA’s record part of their stance on gun permits is that in states like New York and California with “discretionary” issue only the rich and influencial in urban areas are issued permits.  Secondly, they’ve fought over the years to repeal “Saturday Night Special” laws that outlaw low-cost handguns and they’ve gone after municipalities that have passed laws impeding access by homeowners to their own weapons (like Chicago, DC),  They’ve also argued against cities moving gun stores/ranges outside of city limits because in those instances the rich and middle class have an easy time still getting firearms but the urban poor, many of whom rely on public transportation, are the ones who have difficulty getting access to firearms.

  • Paul McHan Jr

    The single, most obvious failure of all of the arguments made so far, is that TRESPASSING is ILLEGAL!  It doesn’t, and shouldn’t matter, if a property is fenced off or not.  Private property should be respected by every citizen, no exceptions, no excuses.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

      uh … Paul? There’s no trespassing issue under discussion. This is the George Zimmerman murder charge and ancillary concerns we’re discussing. Are you on the wrong page?

      • George

        T.M. was the tresspasser.  Tresspassers are confronted.  What’s your business here?  Regardless of color.  Signs are posted and properties gated for a reason. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Stephenson/506403257 Linda Stephenson

          George. You must be mistaking the Trayvon Martin murder case with some other case. Martin was not a trespasser. He was staying with his dad, who lived in the gated complex. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Berton/100002814677581 Tim Berton

    This article includes the unwarranted assumption that Zimmerman “shot an unarmed black teenager who never confronted him in the first place.”

    Zimmerman’s claims that Martin did attack him first and his injuries support that. The investigator testified that they have no evidence to indicate who started the fight.

    Also, Zimmerman got the gun to protect himself from a vicious pit bull in the neighborhood on the advice of the authorities, not for people.

    If the authorities had removed the dangerous pit bull, Zimmerman may have never gotten a gun.

  • MaggieD

    It is my understanding that this particular gated community was multi-racial, and that Trayvon’s father lived there with his girlfriend. Was that informaiton untrue?

  • Maplerunnerorganics

    Robin, I live in a hundred year old neighborhood where houses sit on large lots with big front porches and have no privacy fences and no garages so people park on the street  (imagine that!).  I love it.  Everyone knows my family, my three children, even our dog and stop to visit when they walk past or just wave from their cars.  There are some 20 kids all of whom play together, walk home from school together, or ride bikes.  I have never lived in a place where we have felt safer.  Knowing your neighbors, even just seeing them pass by, is a huge factor in feeling safe and  I’ll skip the garage, the privacy fence, even put up with dog do do in our yard for that any day!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JLWAU3XL7M2BUAHYY5UNKXPUAU charley


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JLWAU3XL7M2BUAHYY5UNKXPUAU charley

    & GET ALONG !

  • NWP

    I loved listening to this story today. As a person who lives in a non-gated community (never has, likely never will), but has children who go to a hoity-toity private school in a wealthy area of San Diego, I have often wondered about the rise of gated communities. My children have many friends who live in gated communities, so I have spent a lot of time driving to and getting buzzed in and out of them. In Southern California, many of the gated communities are so far away from the urban areas and so close to canyons and horse farms that I wonder, “Who are they trying to keep out?” Any person who doesn’t fit the general demographic (white, upper middle class) would look so out of place. In addition, I am not sure how the people they are trying to keep out would even get there as there is limited public transportation, if any,  to most of those areas. The “riff raff” would have to deliberately drive there to commit whatever crimes the folks in the gated community think they are going to commit.
    When my children’s friends come to our neighborhood, they are surprised by the mix of races and ethnicities they see on the streets. And the fact that people are walking around the neighborhood: to the store, to restaurants, to the post office, etc. , evokes curiosity and wonder. My kids and I may give the homeless guy on the corner a granola bar and water, while their friends can’t believe we acknowledged his presence. The world is a tough place and I think it’s important that we live in and know as much about it as possible, not just one tiny gated block of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=768900406 Bob Barbanes

    Benjamin is wrong, wrong, wrong in his statement that it was Zimmerman who confronted Martin “in the first place.”  We do not know- have no way of knowing- who confronted whom first.  The 911 tape ends before *any* confrontation takes place.  We only know that Zimmerman had noticed and was following Martin, and that Martin noticed Zimmerman as well.  But according to the tape, Zimmerman reported that Martin had run away and was lost from sight, with no “confrontation” reported.  Obviously, Martin *did* return where there was a confrontation that ended in Martin’s death.  For host, Robin Young to let Benjamin get away with such an outright untruth was very unprofessional.  She let him appear to be an authority on the subject when he clearly is not…when he clearly possesses the biases and prejudices and preconceived notions that all blacks seem to have with regard to this case.  I would have expected better from Ms. Young.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=768900406 Bob Barbanes

    Benjamin is wrong, wrong, wrong to state that Zimmerman initiated the first contact with Martin.  In fact, we have no way of knowing who confronted whom.  On the 911 call to the police, Zimmerman only reported that he was following a person.  That person then started coming toward Zimmerman, but subsequently reversed and ran away; Zimmerman reported that he lost sight of him.  Then he coordinated where he’d meet the cops and hung up.  At some point shortly thereafter, the person (whom we now know to be Martin) returned.  A confrontation developed which resulted in Martin’s death.  THAT IS ALL WE KNOW.

    Benjamin exhibits the same prejudices and preconceived notions that all black people seem to have in this case.  They assume that Zimmerman was the aggressor…and is therefore guilty of murder.  Robin Young should not have let those statements go unchallenged.  She let Benjamin come off as some authority when it’s clear that he may not have even listened to Zimmerman’s 911 call! 

    I expected better from Robin Young and NPR. 

    • Nikki

      We know Trayvon ran away from Zimmerman after being watched, stalked and followed from a car and we know Zimmerman got out of his car with a loaded gun to chase down a kid he hadn’t even witnessed commit any crime. We know Zimmerman was told not to follow Trayvon, and he continued going after him anyway. The fact that Trayvon ran proves he wasn’t looking for a fight with a random stranger. The fact Zimmerman got out of his car and chased him down with his gun proves he was looking for a fight. Zimmerman never agreed to meet the cops anywhere, he said to have them call him when he got there, likely because he knew he wouldn’t be in the agreed location, he was determined to find Trayvon Martin. As for “Trayvon returned”, returned from where? We know he didn’t make it home that night. Trayvon ran from dude, he was on the phone when the fight started, and screamed for help. Not the actions of a kid looking for a fight. Everything, all the evidence points to Zimmerman being the aggressor, not Trayvon. Therefore, Zimmerman is guilty of murder. You should listen to the 911 calls again and look at the facts objectively.

  • Mike

    We lived in a few gated communities while working as home-tenders in San Antonio, TX.  We certainly felt that same sense of being in a compound and anything that stood out as suspicious was first assumed to be suspect.  Case and point, we got an “All Alert” email from one of the residents that said there was an idling white van behind the neighborhood wall of her house.  They jumped in their car to go out there and see what it was doing but it was gone when they got out there.  That could of been anything.  Major herd mentality paranoia.

    We can’t be ignorant of the fact that crime does happen, but people in general, especially older folks in the gated communities, are watching way too many shows like “48 Hours”, “Unsolved Mysteries”, “Who the Bleep Did I Marry?”, and numerous similar shows.  Just freaking themselves out. 

    Btw, I agree that when you home-tend versus own in these neighborhoods, you are not a part of the fold.  You are just a renter and first suspect of any crime.  We didn’t become “club members” until we purchased our home.

  • Geomania6

    He could have just as easily followed him from the safety of his car. 

  • Bushywhacky

    I was visiting a friend in Vermont. As we drove down a long country road he slowed his pickup and proclaimed “oh crap another flatlander” What do you mean I inquired. Well he replied as soon as someone from New York or Boston or Hartford buys some land up here the first thing they do is put POSTED NO TRESPASSING signs up. What do they think someone is going to do steal their trees ? 
    This is the same mentality oas the gated community bunch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hubert-Tanner/100003075103219 Hubert Tanner

    i think if some one is beating the hell out of me and maybe trying to beat me to death that i should .A – let them kill me  B- kill them first   what would u do????

  • Xmystic

    What biased tripe…

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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