George Zimmerman has filed a defamation lawsuit against Democratic presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, claiming that when they paid tribute to Trayvon Martin earlier this month, they inaccurately linked Martin’s death with gun violence to “garner votes in the Black community.”
Zimmerman’s lawsuit accuses Warren and Buttigieg of “actual malice or at a minimum a reckless disregard for the truth” for tweeting about Martin on February 5, which would have been his 25th birthday. In February 2012, when Martin was 17, Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed teen in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury after he claimed he acted in self-defense.
Trayvon’s death sparked widespread protests and launched the Black Lives Matter movement.
“My heart goes out to (Martin’s mother) @SybrinaFulton and Trayvon’s family and friends. He should still be with us today,” Warren tweeted earlier this month. “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.”
My heart goes out to @SybrinaFulton and Trayvon’s family and friends. He should still be with us today.
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. https://t.co/9lXXlRnvzL
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 6, 2020
Buttigieg tweeted, “Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today. How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?” Buttigieg added a Black Lives Matter hashtag on the end of his tweet.
Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today.
How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?#BlackLivesMatter
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 5, 2020
In his lawsuit, which was filed in Florida, Zimmerman claims that the tweets falsely connect “gun violence” to Martin’s death, which he says is a term associated with the “reckless and indiscriminate use of illegally owned firearms” that leads to death or harm of innocent victims, according to Newsweek.
The lawsuit also said Warren and Buttigieg’s tweets imply Zimmerman’s actions were linked to white supremacy, racism, and fear. Zimmerman seeks damage “in excess of $15,000.00 exclusive of interest, costs and attorneys’ fees,” according to the lawsuit.
“The only ‘fear’ Zimmerman experienced, as established in the 2013 trial and well-covered in the media, was in the context of Zimmerman believing he might go unconscious and die from the repeated beating of his head against the sidewalk pavement or by choking to death from the blood going down his throat due to his broken nose during the beating by Martin,” the lawsuit reads.
In the lawsuit, Zimmerman said the tweets were politically motivated to “garner votes in the Black community.”
“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,” Zimmerman’s lawyer, Larry Klayman, said, according to Newsweek. “Their despicable ‘race tactics’ are not only causing great harm to persons such as my client George Zimmerman, but also are damaging relations between black and white Americans who are all brothers.”
Newsweek has reached out to Warren and Buttigieg for comment.