The TalkLeft blog noted last night that the American Civil Liberties Union, after encouraging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to pursue civil rights charges against George Zimmerman the day after he was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, reversed course just four days later.
Though it's no longer available at its national web site, the Associated Press ran the organization's press release. Various searches at the AP's national web site indicate that there has been no coverage of the organization's reversal. Several center-right blogs have noted the reversal, but no one in the establishment press besides Josh Gerstein at the Politico, where stories the rest of the establishment press would prefer to ignore tend to go and all too often die, has noted it. So did the organization have a change of heart? Or did it attempt to manipulate its media exposure with a politically correct initial press release followed by a legally and constitutionally correct reversal it hopes few will notice?
Here's the ACLU's original statement as relayed by AP (headline is AP's; ACLU's web site statement is here; bolds are mine throughout this post):
The American Civil Liberties Union calling for action after the George Zimmerman verdict
American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero released the following statement on the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman:
"Today, our thoughts are with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, whose young son was taken from them far too soon.
Last night's verdict casts serious doubt on whether the legal system truly provides equal protection of the laws to everyone regardless of race or ethnicity.
This case reminds us that it is imperative that the Department of Justice thoroughly examine whether the Martin shooting was a federal civil rights violation or hate crime. We call on Attorney General Eric Holder to release strengthened guidance on the use of race in federal law enforcement. We also urge Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. These specific actions would go a long way to ameliorate the widespread problem of racial profiling. We need solutions not only in Trayvon Martin's case, but also systemic reform."
Here is the first paragraph of the organization's reversal, in the form of a direct letter to Holder:
We are writing to clearly state the ACLU’s position on whether or not the Department of Justice (DOJ) should consider bringing federal civil rights or hate crimes charges as a result of the state court acquittal in the George Zimmerman case. Even though the Supreme Court permits a federal prosecution following a state prosecution, the ACLU believes the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution protects someone from being prosecuted in another court for charges arising from the same transaction. A jury found Zimmerman not guilty, and that should be the end of the criminal case.
One clue that the group would rather not talk about its position any more is at its "This Week in Civil Liberties" blog post.
In its segment on Martin-Zimmerman, the post covers how thousands have marched in the wake of the verdict, and wonders how "people of color--particularly Black families--will ever put their trust into the criminal justice system" (the ACLU capitalized the "B" in "Black"). But neither the post itself nor a previous entry the post links to identifies the group's position.
At the AP's national web site, searches on "ACLU Martin" and "ACLU Zimmerman" (not in quotes) return nothing. Searches on "ACLU" and "American Civil Liberties Union" (not in quotes) both return nothing relevant, strongly indicating that the wire service has never run a story on the organization's change of heart.