In Miami-Dade County where Trayvon Martin lived with his mother, law enforcement has been monitoring social media for possible upheavals. Law enforcement officials have used social media in promoting peaceful demonstrations instead of all out violent riots. Many U.S. Cities had braced for riots after George Zimmerman was declared innocent of killing Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida.
Area clergy supported the police in their efforts to maintain order after the announcement of Zimmerman’s acquittal. “It’s all right to be vocal, but we don’t want to be violent,” said the Rev. Walter Richardson, a longtime pastor and chairman of Miami-Dade County’s Community Relations Board. “We’ve already lost one soul and we don’t want lose anymore.”
Police Chief Cecil Smith of Sanford Florida assigned a door to door campaign effort, whereby officers talked with residents to stem any neighborhood violence. He in a statement to CNN expressed concern that violence may be sparked by an outside influence in the town of 50,000. Smith stated the town had a plan in place to stop any “Rodney King-style riots”. King, a black man, was beat by Los Angeles officers and the incident was filmed by a motorist. The beating sparked riots after the officers were acquitted of any wrongdoing.
Sanford has a history of racial tension. Famed baseball player Jackie Robinson was run out of town while in training camp after joining the Dodgers by the KKK in 1946. Robinson later recounted the incident in his autobiography. Sanford is also where activist Harry Moore, founder of the Sanford branch of The NAACP, had his house fire bombed killing him and his wife.
“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 have Trayvon demonized,” said Pastor Glenn Dames of St. James AME Church in Titusville Florida. Many U.S. cities braced for riots after the courts declared Zimmerman innocent of all charges.
“Had everything been done at the beginning, then you likely would not have had these tensions. The tensions wouldn’t be this big. Ultimately, It’s in God’s hands,” he said.
In Los Angeles California, Police instituted a citywide tactical alert. While one arrest was made many protests were largely peaceful. Demonstrators marched on streets and disrupted traffic but there was no major violence. There was a rock throwing incident that was quickly put down. “Police responded by firing nonlethal rounds,” said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith.
In New York, more than a thousand protestors assembled in Times Square after a two mile march from a rally in Union Square.
People in Atlanta Georgia protested the verdict by rallying downtown in the metro district and calling local radio stations voicing their outrage.
At a rally in downtown Chicago about 200 people protested the verdict and equated it to the 1955 slaying of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old Chicago youth who was murdered in Mississippi by whites.
In Philadelphia, approximately 700 individuals marched from LOVE park to the Liberty Bell in defiance of the court freeing George Zimmerman. “We hope this will begin a movement to end discrimination against young black men,” said Johnathan Cooper, one of the protest’s organizers. “And also empower black people and get them involved in the systems.”
“I think that he feels, truly in his heart, that if he did not have that weapon he might not be here,” said Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara of Zimmerman. Many U.S. cities braced for riots after Zimmerman was declared innocent. “Zimmerman fears for his safety and needs his gun now even more,” O’Mara said.
By Thomas Barr