JUSTIN BERRIER/Media Matters For America
Rush Limbaugh seized on a report that government officials attended rallies related to George Zimmerman to accuse the Department of Justice of "instigating race riots" when in fact, the officials acted as peacekeepers to "defuse community anger."
On his radio show, Limbaugh read from a Judicial Watch post which claimed that a DOJ unit called the Community Relations Service (CRS) "deployed to Sanford, FL to organize and manage rallies against Zimmerman." The post highlighted documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests which detailed spending on activities such as providing "technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17 year old African American male."
Limbaugh claimed the documents proved that the DOJ was "organizing anti-Zimmerman rallies," going on to say that "the United States government has been converted by Obama and [Eric] Holder into a community organizing agitator bunch." Limbaugh concluded that "this regime saw an opportunity to turn something into a profoundly racial case for the express purpose of ripping the country apart":
But the documents do not show the CRS organizing rallies against Zimmerman, only providing support andtechnical assistance for them. In fact, as the Miami Herald reported, the unit worked to "defuse community anger hardening along the fault lines of race, color and national origin":
[I]n the weeks after the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a city representative picked up the phone and called Thomas Battles, a quiet force who has worked almost three decades mending racially damaged communities.The federal mediator works for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service (CRS), a stealth federal operation that works to defuse community anger hardening along the fault lines of race, color and national origin.The mediators are called the peacemakers.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the unit "reached out to the city's spiritual and civic leaders to help cool headed emotions" and brokered "deals between the city officials and residents to help prevent violence and lay the groundwork for peace":
When racial tensions flared in Sanford, a league of secretive peacemakers reached out to the city's spiritual and civic leaders to help cool heated emotions after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in February.When civil-rights organizers wanted to demonstrate, these federal workers taught them how to peacefully manage crowds.They even arranged a police escort for college students to ensure safe passage for their 40-mile march from Daytona Beach to Sanford to demand justice.As national figures and sign-waving protesters grabbed the spotlight after Trayvon's death, federal workers from a little-known branch of the Department of Justice labored away behind the scenes, quietly brokering deals between the city officials and residents to help prevent violence and lay the groundwork for peace.
According to the CRS website, the services they performed in Sanford are precisely what the unit is intended to do, and officials are only deployed "when requested or accepted by the parties":
The Community Relations Service is the Department's "peacemaker" for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS is the only Federal agency dedicated to assist State and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, incidents, and civil disorders, and in restoring racial stability and harmony.[...]For more than 45 years, CRS has been asked to provide its experienced mediators to help local communities resolve conflicts and disturbances relating to race, color, or national origin. Each year CRS' highly skilled conciliators bring hundreds of community-wide conflicts to peaceful closure across America and its territories.