George Zimmerman, the former neighbourhood watch leader who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2012, is suing Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren for $265 million.
Zimmerman filed a lawsuit against the Democrats on Tuesday, February 18, accusing both of defaming him “for political gain” and to “bolster their standings amongst African-American voters”.
It comes two months after he filed a $100 million suit against Martin’s family and lawyers, accusing them of introducing a fake witness during his 2013 murder trial.
Zimmerman’s claim against the Democrats centres on two separate tweet sent on February 5, which would have been Martin’s 25th birthday.
Warren said that on that day, her heart went out to Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton “and Trayvon’s family and friends”.
“He should still be with us today,” she wrote.
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.
Buttigieg added: “How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?” He ended his tweet with the hashtag “BlackLivesMatter”.
Zimmerman’s lawyers are arguing that in both tweets, Martin’s death was used “as a pretext to demagogue and falsely brand Zimmerman as a white supremacist and racist”.
The Florida resident has always maintained that he shot Martin in an act of self-defence, and was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter charges in 2013.
The acquittal kickstarted the Black Lives Matter movement, which both candidates have supported (though as the lawsuit notes, Buttigieg was criticised in 2015 for using “all lives matter” in a speech).
In a statement, Zimmerman’s attorney Larry Klayman accused the Democrats of “damaging relations between black and white Americans”.
“It is high time that the cheap and harmful use of the race card by politicians of all stripes be made to cease and desist,” Klayman told Newsweek.
In the suit, the Democrats are also accused of suggesting Zimmerman was engaged in “the reckless and indiscriminate use of illegally owned firearms that causes the death of a random innocent victim” bu using the term “gun violence”.
It reiterates that the gun used to shoot Martin – which Zimmerman reportedly sold for $250,000 in May 2016 – was “a registered and legally owned firearm”.
America should ‘applaud George Zimmerman’, lawyer says.
Klayman added in his statement that “the nation should applaud Mr Zimmerman for taking a strong stand and pushing back against hack politicians like Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, who know no bounds of decency and frankly could obviously care less about whom they hurt in their quest to dishonesty use and manipulate black voters to win the 2020 Democrat presidential primary”.
Both Buttigieg and Warren have had issues attracting Black voters. Buttigieg in particular has come under fire for his political record, and has seen rallies stormed by Black Lives Matter demonstrators. Earlier this month, six women of colour left Warren’s 70-person Nevada campaign team, complaining that they felt tokenised.
PinkNews has contacted Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns for comment.