Zimmerman Awaits Verdict, Florida Prepares for Unrest as Nation Watches

The prosecution and defense made their final arguments Friday and it appears that anxiety is in the air because while many are convinced Zimmerman is guilty, there is little confidence that justice will be served.  Zimmerman is awaiting his verdict and Florida is preparing for unrest while the nation watches.

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman was taken in for questioning by police and released.  The actions of the police stirred the nation and people protested across the country, standing up against discrimination, racial profiling and demanding stricter gun laws.

“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,” said Pastor Glenn Dames of St. James AME Church in Titusville, one of the early organizers of protests in Brevard County.

“Had everything been done at the beginning, then you likely would not have had these tensions. The tensions wouldn’t be this big. Ultimately, whatever the verdict may be, it’s in God’s hands,” he said.

In the wake of last year’s tension, police are asking citizens to stay calm when the verdict is read. Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith and Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger held a press conference Friday asking the people to stay calm once the verdict is released. Smith stated that this is a trying time for their community and that the residents should use this as an opportunity to discuss, debate and exchange ideas peacefully, regardless of the outcome.

“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,” Smith said. Eslinger cautioned, “We will not tolerate anyone who uses this verdict as an excuse to violate the law.”

As the six jurors convene tomorrow to deliberate and hopefully come to a consensus, the police department and community leaders will be preparing for any uprising from the citizens. The police department has used social media to monitor the temperament of the people in the community.  Messages have been posted on Facebook and twitter encouraging people to be “vocal, not violent.” The police have taken a proactive approach and met with members of the local clergy, and local, state and federal agencies to ward off any hints of violence in the community.  According to reports, a rumor hotline has been set-up and Miami has even designated a place for people to protest peacefully.

“It’s all right to be vocal, but we don’t want to be violent,” said the Rev. Walter Richardson, pastor and chairman of Miami-Dade County’s Community Relations Board.  “We’ve already lost one soul and we don’t want to lose any more.”

As the city officials attempt to reason with the people of Sanford, they are also concerned about outsiders coming in and stirring the pot of confusion. According to police, the city of Sanford is prepared to handle any unrest and to ensure no “Rodney King style riots” occur in their community.

Rodney King was an African-American man beaten by Los Angeles police.  The beaten was recorded, yet, even with that evidence the policemen were acquitted.  The people were livid and riots broke out in Los Angeles, leaving 50 people dead and many injured.

Communities in Florida are bracing for the verdict and taking every measure to protect and allow the people to protest peacefully.  When the verdict is read, it will bring disappointment for either the plaintiff or the defendant’s family, officials just want to give the disappointed party the option to voice their opinion peacefully without causing unrest in the community.

By: Veverly Edwards

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