Hate groups on both sides of the racial divide are exploiting the Trayvon Martin case, Anti Defamation League leader Abe Foxman said Tuesday.
White supremacists and black militants are using the case to further their agendas and spread their messages of hate, Foxman added.
Martin a black teenager, was shot dead in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. The shooter was neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Peruvian.
Since Martin's death, the case has become a flashpoint for protest rallies, which have so far remained peaceful, although Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett has warned the town is turning into a "kindling box."
"The shooting of Trayvon Martin is a troubling case, but to add an element of racism and hate to the pressure-cooker environment surrounding this shooting is deplorable," said Foxman.
"As local and federal law enforcement continue to pursue their investigation, it is important for cooler heads to prevail and for Americans not to buy into the messages of hate and misinformation being promoted by domestic extremist groups."
Foxman detailed the extremists that have gotten involved in the case:
• The New Black Panther Party, which he described as "the largest
organized anti-Semitic and racist black militant group in America," has offered a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman's capture, and its Florida representative, Mikhail Muhammed, has said Zimmerman "should be fearful for his life."
• The National Socialist Movement, which he described as "the largest
neo-Nazi group in the country" says it will have armed patrols in Sanford to protect whites.
• The Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of "a virulently anti-Muslim and anti-gay
apostolic church" plans a rally to support Zimmerman because "America is being corrupted, controlled and manipulated."
• The New Black Liberation Militia plans to arrest Zimmerman and hand
him over to authorities; leader Najee Muhammad has said about Zimmerman, "Ain't nothing going to happen to that family unless we do it."
Other white supremacist groups have written articles praising Zimmerman for shooting a black teen, Foxman said, and have questioned why the media have referred to the shooter as white rather than Latino.
Foxman said he was concerned that some reports have falsely labeled Zimmerman as Jewish when he is actually Catholic.
He said the ADL welcomes the federal investigation into Martin's death and said it potentially could be treated as a hate crime.
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