Law enforcement officials and religious leaders called for calm in the event jurors acquit George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin in 2012 in a racially-charged case.
“This is a trying time for all of us,” Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith, who joined Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger at a news conference immediately after the jury got the case Friday. But, he said, “I’d like to remind everyone that the city of Sanford is a peaceful location and it has been since that time 17 months ago.”
Pastor Glenn Dames of St. James AME Church in Titusville, told Florida Today his congregants will focus on prayer rather than protests regardless of the verdict. But he said the African-American community is still seething over the way the case was handled following the Feb. 26, 2012 incident.
“For so many of the youth, I think you have to understand that the way this case was handled seems like a slap in the face. How could Zimmerman shoot Trayvon and by his own admission be free to leave 12 hours later? You’ve also had Trayvon demonized.” – The Rev. Walter T. Richardson, Miami-area pastor
Actually Martin wasn’t demonized, exactly the opposite has happened. Trayvon Martin has been portrayed as an innocent kid. Even the prosecution referred to Martin as a “child”.
A quick reminder – Martin had bought,sold and used drugs, was in possession of an illegal handgun, was caught with a bag that contained a ‘burglary tool’ – a flathead screwdriver – and 12 pieces of women’s jewellery. He was also suspended from school for punching his school bus driver in the face.
“We seek justice not revenge from the American judicial system,” Jackson said. “If Zimmerman is convicted there should not be inappropriate celebrations because a young man lost his life; and if he is not convicted we should avoid violence because it will only lead to more tragedies. Self-destruction is not the road to reconstruction.”
For months, officials in Sanford and South Florida have been working with pastors, youth coaches, community activists and summer camp counselors to stress a non-violent approach if Zimmerman walks free. At the same time, police say they have quietly been making plans for dealing with any potential emotional flare-ups that could quickly turn into storefront-smashing, car-burning riots.
For their efforts, those officials have been called out as racist.
Meanwhile Martin’s supporters, the same ones that have already convicted George Zimmerman and branded him as a racist, have gone off on violent racist rants of their own.