A secretive branch of the U.S. Department of Justice was deployed to South Florida in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting to help organize rallies, including one headlined by the Rev. Al Sharpton, calling for the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman.
Records obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch, under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that members of the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service were sent to South Florida in March and April of 2012 to help manage protests, The Daily Caller reported Wednesday.
The 347 pages of documents obtained from the federal government showed that $5,320 in expenses was claimed by the Community Relations Service for workers assigned to protests and marches in and around Sanford, Fla., after Zimmerman was accused of shooting Martin.
At a March 31 rally, CRS workers provided technical assistance to the City of Sanford and rally organizers for the event billed as “The March for Trayvon Martin,” where civil rights activist and MSNBC host Sharpton called for Zimmerman’s prosecution, according to the Daily Caller.
“These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a statement posted on the watchdog group’s website. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially charged demonstrations.”
The release of the Justice Department documents came as the defense rested their case in the second-degree murder trial without calling Zimmerman to testify.
According to the federal documents obtained by Judicial Watch, the feds spent $674.14 between March 25 and 27 while being “deployed to Sanford, FL, to work marches, demonstrations and rallies related to the shooting death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.” Another $1,142.14 was claimed for similar work from March 25 to 28.
From March 30 to April 1, the CRS staff rang up $892.55 in expenses “to provide support for protest deployment in Florida.” Also during March 30 to April 1, the agency claimed another $751.60 in expenses to “provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31.”
CRS filed for $1,307.40 in expenses from April 3 to April 12 “to provide technical assistance, conciliation and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford.” And from April 11 to 12, CRS spent $552.35 while in Sanford “to provide technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17 year old African American male.”
The CRS was created under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Daily Caller reported. The agency describes its role as Department of Justice’s “peacemaker for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin.”