SANFORD — Members of the New Black Panther Party are offering a $10,000 reward for the “capture” of George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin.
New Black Panther leader Mikhail Muhammad announced the reward during a protest in Sanford Saturday. And when asked whether he was inciting violence, Muhammad replied defiantly: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
The bounty announcement came moments after members of the group called for the mobilization of 10,000 black men to capture Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon in a gated Sanford community on Feb. 26.
Muhammad said members of his group would search for Zimmerman themselves in Maitland — where the 28-year old worked before the shooting, employees there told the Orlando Sentinel. He declined to say when the group would begin their search.
Muhammad said the group’s national chairman, Dr. Malik Zulu Shabaz of Washington, D.C. is receiving donations from black entertainers and athletes. They hope to collect $1 million by next week, Muhammad said.
The party said they would not release the names of donors nor would they provide documentation to support the existence of donations.
The New Black Panthers announced the reward at a protest in Sanford Saturday, the activist group’s third protest in the past two weeks over the fatal shooting of the Miami Gardens teen.
The group called for Zimmerman’s arrest and threatened to find and detain him if police were not willing to do so. But group members didn’t call for the mobilization of thousands until Saturday.
Muhammed led the group in chanting “Justice for Trayvon!” and “Black Power!”
“If the government won’t do the job, we’ll do it,” Muhammad said, leading his group of eight party members in chants like “freedom or death” and “justice for Trayvon” while making the iconic gesture of raising their fists into the air.
City officials issued a statement, they said was approved by Sanford Police Captain Robert O’Connor, condemning the group’s appeal and asking citizens to leave all arrests to them.
“The City is requesting calm heads and no vigilante justice,” the statement said. “Attempts by civilians to take any person into custody may result in criminal charges or unnecessary violence.”
The party members said they are tired of the inaction of government officials — from Sanford city officials up to the Governor, accusing them of lying and delaying justice.
They accused newly-appointed special prosecutor Angela Corley of being an enemy of the black community.
“She has a track record of sending innocent young black men and women to prison,” he said.
Sanford police arrived toward the end of the demonstration Saturday asking onlookers and media to avoid walking into the street in front of The Retreat at Twin Lakes where Trayvon was killed.
As the officer walked back to his cruiser, Muhammad berated and pointed angrily at him saying “If you’d had shown this much concern, Trayvon may still be alive today.”
The fiery rhetoric and often profanity-laden diatribes made some visitors to the impromptu memorial uncomfortable.
Pastor Moses Brown of Tampa said he was disappointed with the Panthers’ approach.
“We believe in a message of justice, not hate,” said Brown, who was in town to pray at the memorial and attend the Monday event at Sanford’s Civic Center. “We believe justice will come through the court system.”